How the next Manhattan DA could impact the Trump investigation

Cyrus Vance Jr. is stepping down after a long tenure as district attorney.

June 22, 2021, 9:47 PM

The winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary election for Manhattan district attorney will almost certainly inherit a high-profile and politically sensitive probe into the Trump Organization -- a likelihood that raises the stakes in an already heated race for one of the nation's most coveted prosecutorial offices.

Launched in 2018, the burgeoning investigation into former president Donald Trump's namesake firm has spilled into public view in recent weeks as outgoing district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. weighs the decision about whether or not to bring charges.

A special grand jury impaneled by Vance's office has already called several witnesses to provide testimony as it considers whether criminal charges are warranted against the former president, his company, or any of its employees, sources previously told ABC News.

Sources familiar with the investigation say that Vance is expected to decide how to move forward with the case before his term ends in January, which would likely leave his successor to see any prosecutions through to trial.

The eight Democrats running to replace Vance have largely deflected queries about how they would handle the politically fraught case. But several have pledged to enact tough penalties if the Trump Organization or any of its employees are found to have broken the law.

"While I can't say what I will specifically do without seeing all the facts and the evidence, if Donald Trump or any of the Trumps committed crimes in Manhattan, I will prosecute them," candidate Eliza Orlins, a public defender, told The Associated Press last month.

New York state assembly member Dan Quart told the AP that, if elected, he would "certainly prosecute" if there was "evidence a serious crime has been committed."

"That would be true for the president as much as it's true for anyone else," Quart said.

And in November, former assistant district attorney Lucy Lang tweeted, "No one is above the law. The #ManhattanDA investigations into Donald Trump must continue."

In addition to Orlins, Quart and Lang, the leading DA contenders include former federal prosecutors Alvin Bragg and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, civil rights lawyer Tahanie Aboushi, and former prosecutors Elizabeth Crotty and Diana Florence.

PHOTO: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. speaks at the press conference in New York, Feb. 24, 2020.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. speaks at the press conference in New York, Feb. 24, 2020.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, FILE

Because of New York's overwhelmingly Democratic voting base, the winner of Tuesday's primary is expected to sail to victory in November.

Vance, who announced in March that he would not seek reelection after 12 years as DA, launched his investigation into the Trump Organization nearly three years ago, spurred by the congressional testimony of Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen.

One focus of the investigation includes whether Trump inflated the value of certain properties to obtain bank loans and deflated the value of those same properties to pay lower taxes, sources have told ABC News. Vance has twice fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to gain access to eight years' worth of Trump's personal and business tax returns.

As part of the probe, Vance has also been investigating the financial dealings of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer -- specifically, what fringe benefits Weisselberg might have received from the Trumps in addition to his salary, and whether taxes were appropriately paid for any such compensation, sources have previously told ABC News.

Trump has dismissed the investigation as being politically motivated and has called it "a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history."

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