‘Next phase’ of criminal probe into Trump finances: Finding witnesses

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    INVESTIGATORS in a criminal probe of former US President Donald Trump’s real-estate business are combing through millions of pages of newly acquired records with an eye toward identifying witnesses who can bring the documents to life for a jury, say two people familiar with the probe.

    Some of the case’s key figures are well-known. Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, met on Friday with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, his eighth such interview. And District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team is interested in getting testimony from the Trump Organization’s long time chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, according to the two people familiar with the investigation.

    But a growing universe of people, institutions and agencies are being scrutinized by Vance’s prosecutors as potential witnesses in the case.

    Prosecutors are looking to gather information and testimony from bankers, bookkeepers, real-estate consultants and others close to the Trump Organization who could provide insights on its dealings, according to interviews and court filings. The process of identifying all witnesses and targets could take months.

    “The next phase is identifying targets” for subpoenas and testimony, said one person familiar with the case.

    Vance has not accused Trump or his associates of wrongdoing but is examining, among other things, whether property values were manipulated to reduce Trump’s taxes or obtain other economic benefits. The case is being heard by a grand jury that will decide whether there is evidence to indict Trump or his associates.

    Vance’s investigators need insiders who can provide the narrative behind any conflicting numbers on Trump’s financial records and testify to Trump’s knowledge and intent, said former prosecutors of white-collar fraud cases.

    “Even in the most heavily document-dependent case, you need witnesses to tell the story,” said Reed Brodsky, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.

    The Supreme Court forced Trump’s longtime accountants Mazars USA to comply with a subpoena on March 1. Since then, investigators have poured through Trump’s tax filings, business documents and internal correspondence, looking for discrepancies between information provided to creditors and data given to tax authorities, said two people familiar with the probe. – Reuters