Former assistant district attorney Mark Pomerantz came up with a fresh angle to prosecute Donald Trump over the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, and he was excited to revive the long-dormant case.
Pomerantz reveals in his new book, People vs Donald Trump: An Inside Account, that he realized the $130,000 payment made weeks before the 2016 election to the porn actress could be seen as money laundering if he could show that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had threatened to reveal their 2006 affair, according to excerpts published by The Guardian.
“If Clifford had gotten money by threatening to tell the world that she had slept with Donald Trump, that sounded like extortion to me," Pomerantz writes, "and if it was extortion, then maybe the hush money she received could be regarded as criminal proceeds, so action taken to conceal Trump’s identity as the source of the money was chargeable as money laundering.”
“[This was] a new idea," he adds, "and I got enthusiastic about it."
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Pomerantz brought that new idea to other prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney's office, who joked the "zombie" case had unexpectedly "sprung back to life," but he felt confident enough in the evidence to send a February 2021 memo describing the case to then-district attorney Cy Vance Jr., and he writes in his book that Michael Cohen's testimony was extremely helpful.
“I asked what words did they use, and his answer was that Trump referred to it as ‘f------- blackmail,'" Pomerantz writes. "That was more than sufficient for my purposes.”
However, other investigators "balked" at his creative theory, in part due to the office's "cautious" culture, and also because it would be difficult to prove Daniels had physically threatened Trump, which is necessary under New York law, but the case finally fell apart on a narrow technicality.
Under New York law, Pomerantz writes, the money Daniels received “had to qualify as ‘criminal proceeds’ when Cohen sent it; otherwise sending was not money laundering. If the money became criminal proceeds only when received, the crime of money laundering had not taken place.”
Pomerantz eventually resigned in frustration in March 2022 after incoming Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg expressed even more hesitation to prosecuting Trump than Vance had, but Bragg has reopened the Daniels case by empaneling a grand jury, but Pomerantz said the former president deserved to be prosecuted for even more serious crimes.
"[It would be] a very peculiar and unsatisfying end to this whole saga”, given that “persistent fraud … permeated [Trump’s] financial statements," Pomerantz writes. “That case involves serious criminal misconduct, [but] it pales in comparison to the financial statement fraud.”