By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Refuting suggestions that he has lost interest in going after Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday that a criminal investigation into the former president and his business practices were continuing “without fear or favour” despite a recent upheaval in the leadership of the probe.
In a rare public statement, Bragg denied that the three-year investigation was coming to an end or that a grand jury term expiring this month would hamper his office’s ability to bring charges.
Citing confidentiality rules, the district attorney said he could not discuss the details of the investigation, but pledged to publicly release the results once it is complete.
“In recent weeks, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been repeatedly questioned about our continued investigation of former President Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization and its leaders,” Bragg wrote. “He is.”
The Democrat’s assertion of the investigation was part of a double dose of bad legal news for Trump on Thursday.
It came shortly after the New York Attorney General’s office asked a judge to hold Trump in contempt of court and fine him $10,000 a day for missing the deadline. of March 31 to turn over documents within the framework of a parallel civil investigation.
Trump is appealing a subpoena for his testimony in this investigation, but not a subpoena requiring him to provide documents.
“The judge’s order was clear: Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and deliver relevant documents to my office,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We seek the immediate intervention of the court because no one is above the law.
A message seeking comment was left for Trump’s attorney.
Bragg’s statement, emailed to reporters and posted to social media, marked the district attorney’s first public comment on Trump’s closely watched investigation since the two top deputies leading it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned Feb. 23 in a dispute over the meaning of the deal.
Pomerantz, a former mob prosecutor who came out of private practice last year to lead the criminal investigation into Trump, wrote in his resignation letter that he believed Trump was “guilty of numerous criminal violations” but that Bragg, who inherited the investigation when he took office in January, had decided not to file a complaint.
Pomerantz said in the letter, published last month by The New York Times, that there was “sufficient evidence to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of allegations that he falsified financial statements to guarantee loans and restore his image as a wealthy businessman.
“I believe your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and based on the existing record, is wrong and completely contrary to the public interest,” Pomerantz wrote. “So I cannot continue in my current position.”
Bragg’s silence after the resignations and the March 23 publication of Pomerantz’s letter gave rise to a narrative that he was no longer interested in prosecuting Trump and that the investigation was effectively dead.
After Pomerantz and Dunne left the prosecutor’s office, Trump attorney Robert Fischetti told The Associated Press, “I’m a very happy man. In my opinion, this investigation is over.
Pomerantz and Dunne began the investigation under former district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and Bragg asked them to stay on when he took over. Pomerantz wrote that Vance ordered them to present evidence to a grand jury and seek the indictment of Trump and other defendants “as soon as reasonably possible,” but Bragg came to a different conclusion after reviewing the evidence.
Vance and Bragg are both Democrats. No former president has ever been charged with a crime.
In his Thursday statement, Bragg tried to pick up the narrative, warning Trump and his associates that they shouldn’t rest easy while trying to reassure supporters who backed him in part because he pledged. to continue to investigate the former president, a Republican. .
Bragg said a team of “dedicated and experienced career prosecutors” are working on the investigation, led by the head of its investigative division, Susan Hoffinger, and they are “going through documents, interviewing witnesses and exploring evidence not previously explored.”
“In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, we investigate thoroughly and follow the facts without fear or favor,” Bragg said.
Trump called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
So far, the three-year investigation has only resulted in tax evasion charges against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, over lucrative employee benefits such as rent, car payments and school fees. They pleaded not guilty.
Lawyers for Weisselberg filed court documents in February asking a judge to dismiss his case, arguing that prosecutors had targeted him as punishment because he would not turn against the former president.
Trump cited the potential danger of the criminal case as he appeals a ruling requiring him to answer questions under oath in a parallel civil investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Trump’s lawyers argue that James, who assigned two attorneys to work on the criminal case, is using the pretense of a civil deposition to circumvent a state law that prohibits prosecutors from calling anyone to testify before a court. criminal grand jury without granting him immunity.
James, a Democrat, said her investigation uncovered evidence Trump may have misrepresented the value of assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers in financial statements for more than a decade – a subject who was also part of the criminal investigation.
Bragg said in his statement that “complex and high-profile investigations have been a hallmark” of his professional career, including serving as New York’s first deputy attorney general in 2018, overseeing a trial that led to the shutdown. of Trump’s charitable foundation following allegations that he used the nonprofit to promote his political and business interests.
“These experiences shape my approach and the investigative steps the team works hard on,” Bragg wrote. “Prosecutors fulfilling their duties cannot and do not only bring cases that are slam dunks. On the contrary, every case must be brought for the right reason, namely that justice requires it. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career, no matter how easy or difficult a case may be.
A grand jury convened last fall as part of the Trump investigation has not heard evidence regularly for several months and its term is expected to end in the coming weeks, but Bragg said there was everything the time of grand juries sitting in Manhattan and “there is no magic at all to the previously reported dates.
“In the meantime, we will not be discussing our investigative steps. Nor will we be discussing grand jury questions. Bragg wrote. “In short, as we have said previously, the investigation is continuing.”
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak
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