Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr has reportedly already obtained some of Donald Trump‘s tax returns, allowing his criminal investigation to proceed as the former president loses some of the protections he had while in office.
Vance is waiting on a US Supreme Court decision that could force Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA to hand over his tax records from 2011 to 2018, but has already obtained some of the information from other sources, people familiar with the matter told Fortune.
Vance’s probe, which began as an investigation into hush money payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, has reportedly widened into examining potential tax, loan and insurance fraud at the Trump Organization.
Trump’s tax returns are considered to be the keystone in the case, and depending on the level of access Vance has gained to them, his probe could now be at an advanced stage.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr has reportedly already obtained some of Donald Trump’s tax returns, allowing his criminal investigation to proceed
On Wednesday, Trump lost the legal protection of the presidency as he left office, and now faces legal jeopardy on multiple fronts
Trump has previously called Vance’s probe ‘a fishing expedition’ and ‘a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history,’ accusing the elected Democrat of partisan motives.
On Wednesday, Trump lost the protection of the presidency as President Joe Biden was sworn in. It is a widely accepted tenet that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Trump ultimately declined to issue controversial pardons for himself or his family members, which in any event would not protect him from state charges, such as Vance might bring, but only federal ones.
Although charges were not expected eminently as Trump flew from DC to Florida, Vance’s probe appeared to be widening.
Last Thursday, New York prosecutors conducted an hours-long interview of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, about his old employer’s finances.
And last week, Vance’s prosecutors began looking into a 212-acre Trump Organization property called Seven Springs as part of an investigation that started over a year ago.
The compound is also one of four Trump Organization properties under civil investigation by New York’s state attorney general, who is probing whether Eric Trump and various corporate entities artificially inflated property values.
Also in the spotlight: The New York AG is investigating whether there was a tax fraud involving the Seven Springs Estate in Bedford, Westchester County, north of New York City.
Last month, Vance hired FTI Consulting, a financial consulting firm headquartered in Washington DC, to assist in reviewing Trump Organization documents, people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post.
FTI Consulting, one of the largest financial consulting firms in the world, offers a full range of forensic, investigative, data analytic and litigation services, according to the company’s website.
In aiding Vance’s probe, FTI experts are likely reviewing Trump Organization bank and mortgage records already obtained through grand jury proceedings.
In a long-running legal battle, Vance is still fighting in court to obtain eight years of Trump’s tax returns from the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA.
The tax returns, which Trump did not disclose during either of his presidential campaigns in a break from precedent, are believed to be the final keystone in Vance’s investigation.
The Supreme Court already has ruled once in the dispute, in July rejecting Trump’s argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.
If the high court rejects Trump’s current request to freeze a lower court’s ruling allowing Vance’s subpoena’s to proceed, Vance would gain access to the tax returns.
Vance’s probe, which began more than two years ago, originally focused on hush money payments made by the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen (center)
The hush money payments went to pornographic film star Stormy Daniels (left) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal (right), who said they had sexual encounters with Trump
Vance’s probe, which began more than two years ago, originally focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid before the 2016 election to two women – a pornographic film star and a former Playboy model – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.
The district attorney has suggested in recent court filings that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.
If Vance discovered evidence of crimes in his investigation, it is possible that he could charge the Trump Organization rather than Trump personally. Criminal charges would require evidence of criminal intent, and would be difficult to bring without the cooperation of an insider witness.
Vance’s probe is just one of several legal threats that Trump faces after leaving office.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization artificially inflated property values to obtain tax benefits.
James began investigating potential fraud in Donald Trump’s business dealings in March 2019 after the president’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump had repeatedly inflated the value of his assets to obtain more favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage.
That inquiry is a civil investigation, which could result in financial penalties but not jail time.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (above) is also conducting a civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization artificially inflated property values to obtain tax benefits
Trump also faces separate defamation lawsuits related to alleged sexual assaults, both of which he denied, brought by two women – E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer, and Summer Zervos, a 2005 contestant on ‘The Apprentice.’
Mary Trump, the president’s niece, also has filed a lawsuit accusing him and two family members of fraud and conspiracy to deprive her of her share of the family’s real-estate empire.
Trump also could face a criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Justice Department for federal income-tax evasion charges. The New York Times recently reported Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017.
Trump rejected the Times’ findings and it is not clear if he violated the law. Any federal prosecution would be contentious, and Biden has been cautious on the issue and questioned the value of such a prosecution, but says he would not interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment.