New York prosecutors were preparing a case against President Donald Trump's son and daughter, but the District Attorney's office was stopped by a big donor.
According to a new ProPublica report, Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz managed to make the case against Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump disappear. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office was building a criminal case for misleading possible buyers of Trump's SoHo hotel and condo that wouldn't sell. The evidence was based on emails that the two sent acknowledging that they used inflated numbers claiming the condos were selling well, hoping buyers would be eager to invest.
Four people have seen the emails where the Trumps discussed how to be on message about the fake information for possible buyers. They also feared a reporter might know about the fraudulent numbers. In another email, Don Jr. reassured a broker who was worried about the false numbers, promising that no one would ever find out about it. He explained that only those in the email chain in the Trump Organization knew of the false numbers.
There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” a person who saw the emails told ProPublica. “They knew it was wrong.”
The Major Economic Crimes Bureau in the district attorney's office opened the investigation in 2010 and the Trump Organization was forced to hire top criminal defense attorneys for Don Jr. and Ivanka. The attorneys met with the bureau multiple times and admitted that the Trumps falsified claims about the sales. Their argument was that exaggerating on condo sales aren't criminal. Donald Trump, at one point, seemed frustrated the investigations were still continuing. That's when his longtime attorney got involved.
Kasowitz became the largest donor to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s reelection campaign with a $25,000 donation. He then met with Vance and Adam Kaufmann, who ran the investigation division. There weren't any new arguments or information introduced but Vance dropped the case, overruling his own prosecutors.
Kasowitz then bragged about representing the Trump children, according to two different people. He even called the case "very dangerous" and said that it was "amazing I got them off." Kasowitz, however, denies he ever said any such thing.
“I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” Vance said, defending his decision. “I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call.”
Shortly before the meeting, Vance returned the contribution, saying that it was standard practice to refuse donations when there's an ongoing case the donor is involved with.
Kasowitz “had no influence and his contributions had no influence whatsoever on my decision-making in the case,” Vance explained.
Six months after the case was dropped however, Kasowitz gave another donation and helped raise more, totaling more than $50,000. Only after ProPublica began inquiring about the donations did Vance say that he planned to give the money back.
“I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” Vance claimed.
Kasowitz swore the donations had nothing to do with the case.
“I donated to Cy Vance’s campaign because I was and remain extremely impressed by him as a person of impeccable integrity, as a brilliant lawyer and as a public servant with creative ideas and tremendous ability,” Kasowitz said in a statement. “I have never made a contribution to anyone’s campaign, including Cy Vance’s, as a ‘quid-pro-quo’ for anything.”
The New York Times previously reported the criminal investigation into the project, and ties to organized crime, but the information about Trump's children was not known at the time.
One lawyer involved with the Trumps admits the case was resolved seemed unusual.
“Dropping the case was reasonable,” said Paul Grand, a partner at the law firm that ran the Trump SoHo defense team. “The manner in which it was accomplished is curious.”
Grand worked as a partner of Vance's prior to his election as D.A. Though he said that he didn't believe the office had evidence of criminal misconduct.
He did say that the meeting with Vance and Kasowitz “didn’t have an air you’d like.” He continued, saying, “If you and I were district attorney and you knew that a subject of an investigation was represented by two or three well-thought-of lawyers in town, and all of a sudden someone who was a contributor to your campaign showed up on your doorstep, and the regular lawyers are nowhere to be seen, you’d think about how you’d want to proceed.”
“This started as a civil case,” Vance said. “It was settled as a civil case with a statement by the purchasers of luxury properties that they weren’t victims. And at the end of the day, I felt if we were not going to charge criminally, we should leave it as a civil case in the posture in which it came to us.”