Early last month, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced that it was investigating “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” which led days later to a subpoena of Trump’s main lender Deutsche Bank. Seven weeks later, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced in a court filing that his office had the grounds to investigate the president and his businesses for tax fraud.
The filing is the first public notice that such a charge may be part of the investigation into the Trump Organization’s potential criminal conduct. It was already known that Vance was looking into hush payments made during the 2016 campaign to keep Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal from discussing their alleged affairs with the candidate. Currently, the investigation is stalled over a legal battle over a subpoena issued by the district attorney in August 2019, requiring the president hand over eight years of tax returns. In July, the Supreme Court handed Trump a legal loss, but a tactical win when it ruled that Trump was not immune from state grand jury and congressional subpoenas as his lawyers argued. The Court did allow Trump to challenge the subpoena in a lower court, however, making it unlikely to go through prior to the election.
Vance, who is not bound by Department of Justice policy not to investigate a sitting president, mentioned in the filing that his office may be investigating several potential charges:
Considering Vance’s history of eschewing charges for the city’s well-known and heavily lawyered elite, the fact that he is considering a case against Trump could reveal a substantial level of confidence in any potential evidence for tax fraud or other alleged crimes. “He has a reputation for being particularly cautious when it comes to going after rich people, because he knows that those are the ones who can afford the really formidable law firms,” Victoria Bassetti, an attorney on the team of lawyers that oversaw the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, told New York earlier this month. “And like most prosecutors, Vance is exceptionally protective of his win-loss rate.”