The two top prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation of Donald Trump have resigned, suggesting the investigation of the former US president and his business is winding down.
The district attorney’s office confirmed the resignation of Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne in a brief statement on Wednesday, thanking them for their service and saying its investigation was “ongoing”.
Dunne had served as general counsel to Cyrus Vance, the former Manhattan DA, while Pomerantz, a veteran criminal defence lawyer, left private practice last year to work specifically for the DA on its investigation of Trump.
Their commitment to remain after Vance left office in December to make way for his successor, Alvin Bragg, was taken as confirmation by many involved in the case that the Trump investigation was alive and well.
Their sudden departure has now raised speculation that Bragg, who took office in January, has decided to back off. “It strongly suggests that there’s not likely to be a prosecution,” one New York defence lawyer said.
If so, it would represent a welcome development for the former president and his family-owned property group, the Trump Organization, whose financial practices have come under intense legal scrutiny.
A New York judge ruled last week that Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Jr and Ivanka, would have to testify under oath in a related civil investigation by Letitia James, the New York attorney-general.
In a recent court filing, James said she had turned up “significant evidence” that the Trumps had committed fraud by misrepresenting the value of office towers, golf courses and other assets to secure economic benefits, such as bank financing and tax refunds.
James’ office focuses on bringing civil cases, which would result in financial penalties and other sanctions. The DA, which has been presenting evidence to a grand jury for months, faces a heavier burden to prove criminal charges.
The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigations as a partisan witch hunt carried out by Democratic politicians.
Even if the Manhattan DA relents, Trump is still facing the investigation from James. Meanwhile, a district attorney in Atlanta has asked a judge to convene a grand jury to hear evidence about Trump’s attempt to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia.
The Manhattan DA launched its investigation three years ago, prompted by congressional testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer. Its efforts appeared to intensify in July after it charged Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, with tax fraud.
Weisselberg, who has pleaded not guilty, has refused to co-operate with prosecutors, depriving them of what they had hoped would be a valuable witness.
As the twin investigations have ground on, some former prosecutors have noted the difficulty of presenting a complicated financial case to a jury. Others have questioned whether banks that lent to Trump would be considered victims, since they would have been expected to carry out their own due diligence and not rely on the financial claims of a property developer — particularly one known for braggadocio.
Meanwhile, Bragg has endured a tumultuous start to his term after a memo he sent to prosecutors emphasising leniency inflamed many New Yorkers reeling from an increase in violent crime.
Just before he took office, he pledged to personally involve himself in the Trump investigation, telling CNN: “Carey and Mark have been doing this a long time. I want to hear what they’re thinking. I’ll bring my experience to bear. I may add other people to the team.”