News report

Trump is guilty of ‘numerous’ crimes, says prosecutor who resigned

One of the top Manhattan prosecutors who investigated Donald J. Trump said the former president was ‘guilty of numerous criminal violations’ and it was ‘a gross miscarriage of justice’ not to hold him to account. responsible, according to a copy of his resignation letter. .

Prosecutor Mark F. Pomerantz tendered his resignation last month after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg abruptly stopped pursuing Mr. Trump’s indictment.

Mr. Pomerantz, 70, a former top federal prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney who came out of retirement to work on the Trump investigation, resigned the same day as Carey R. Dunne, another senior prosecutor head of the investigation.

Mr. Pomerantz’s Feb. 23 letter, obtained by The New York Times, offers a personal account of his decision to step down and, for the first time, explicitly states his belief that the office could have convicted the former president. Mr Bragg’s decision was ‘contrary to the public interest’, he wrote.

Credit…David Karp/Associated Press

“The team that investigated Mr. Trump has no doubts whether he committed any crimes — he did,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote.

Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne planned to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business records, specifically his annual financial statements – a felony in New York state.

Mr Bragg’s decision not to pursue the charges at the time – and subsequent resignations – cast serious doubt on the fate of the long-running investigation. Had prosecutors secured an indictment from Mr. Trump, it would have been the highest-profile case ever brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and would have made Mr. Trump the first U.S. president to face criminal charges.

Earlier this month, The Times reported that the investigation had collapsed after weeks of growing disagreement between veteran prosecutors overseeing the case and the new district attorney. Much of the debate has centered on whether prosecutors could prove Mr. Trump knowingly falsified the value of his assets on annual financial statements, the Times found, a necessary piece of evidence to prove the case.

While Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz were confident the office could demonstrate that the former president intended to inflate the value of his golf clubs, hotels and office buildings, Mr. Bragg was not. . He balked at pursuing an impeachment against Mr. Trump, a move that ended the presentation of evidence by Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne to a grand jury and prompted their resignations.

Mr. Bragg said his office was continuing to investigate. For that reason, Mr. Bragg, a former federal prosecutor and assistant New York state attorney general who became a district attorney in January, is not allowed to comment on his details.

Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had decided in his final days in office to move to an indictment, leaving Mr. Trump weeks away from likely criminal charges. Mr. Bragg’s decision appears, for now at least, to have eliminated one of the greatest legal threats that Mr. Trump has ever faced.

The resignation letter cast a harsh light on that decision from the perspective of Mr. Pomerantz, who wrote that he believed there was sufficient evidence to prove Mr. Trump’s guilt “beyond all reasonable doubt”.

“No case is perfect,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote. “Whatever the risks involved in bringing the case, I am confident that a failure to prosecute will pose far greater risks in terms of public confidence in the proper administration of justice.”

In a statement responding to the letter, Mr. Trump’s attorney, Ronald P. Fischetti, said the charges were not justified and that Mr. Pomerantz “had the opportunity to present the fruits of his investigation. to the prosecutor and his senior staff on several occasions”. and failed.

Mr. Fischetti, who was Mr. Pomerantz’s legal partner in the 1980s and early 1990s, added: “We should applaud District Attorney Alvin Bragg for embracing the rule of law and walking away from it. stick to the evidence while making an apolitical charging decision based solely on the lack of evidence and nothing else.

In its own statement, Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, called Mr. Pomerantz “never Trump” and said, “Never before have we seen such a level of corruption in our legal system.”

Mr. Trump has long denied wrongdoing and launched personal attacks on those investigating him, including a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Pomerantz. In a statement, he claimed that attorneys from Mr. Pomerantz’s former law firm “went to work at the district attorney’s office to viciously ensure that ‘the job got done.’ ”

Mr Pomerantz, who confirmed his resignation in a brief interview last month, declined to comment on the letter when contacted by The Times this week.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bragg, Danielle Filson, said the investigation was continuing and added: “A team of experienced prosecutors are working every day to follow the facts and the law. There is nothing more we can or should say at this point about an ongoing investigation.

Credit…Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

In his letter, Mr. Pomerantz acknowledged that Mr. Bragg “devoted considerable time and energy to understanding the evidence” in the investigation and made his decision in good faith. But, he writes, “a decision made in good faith may nevertheless be wrong.”

Mr. Pomerantz contrasted Mr. Bragg’s approach with that of Mr. Vance, who made the Trump investigation a centerpiece of his tenure and convened the grand jury last fall. Mr. Pomerantz’s letter said that shortly before leaving office, Mr. Vance had ordered prosecutors to pursue the indictment of Mr. Trump as well as “other defendants as soon as reasonably possible.”

The letter did not name the other defendants, but the recent Times article reported that prosecutors are also considering charging Mr. Trump’s family business and his longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, who had already been charged. with the company last year, accused of a year-long tax evasion scheme.

Mr. Bragg told his aides that the investigation could move forward if any new evidence is uncovered or if a Trump Organization insider decides to turn against Mr. Trump. Some bureau investigators saw either possibility as highly unlikely.

“There are always additional facts to pursue,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote in his letter. “But the investigative team that has been working on this case for many months does not believe it makes sense for law enforcement to postpone a prosecution in the hope that additional evidence will somehow emerge. of another.”

He added that “I and others believe that your decision not to allow prosecution now will negate any future possibility that Mr. Trump will be prosecuted for the criminal conduct we are investigating.”

In late December, the team investigating Mr Trump was mostly united around Mr Vance’s decision to press charges – but that hasn’t always been the case, The Times reported this month. Last year, three career prosecutors from the district attorney’s office chose to leave the team, uncomfortable with the speed at which it was proceeding and with what they believed to be gaps in the evidence.

Initially, Mr Pomerantz and Mr Dunne considered charging Mr Trump with the crime of ‘scheming to defraud’, believing he had falsely inflated his assets on financial disclosure statements which had been used to obtain bank loans . But by the end of the year, they had changed course and planned to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business documents — a simpler case that essentially portrayed Mr. Trump as a liar rather than a thief.

Mr. Pomerantz, who joined the investigation more than a year ago, said in the letter that Mr. Trump’s financial statements were “false” – that he had lied about his assets to “banks, national media, counterparties and many others, including the American people.

Mr. Pomerantz is not the only one involved in the investigation to suggest that Mr. Trump or his company broke the law. New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is assisting the criminal investigation and conducting its own civil investigation, filed court documents in the civil case arguing that she had evidence showing that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or deceptive” practices. .

Mr Trump accused Mr Bragg and Ms James, who are both black Democrats, of conducting a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ and being ‘racists’.

Ms James’ investigation, which may lead to a prosecution but not criminal charges, continues as she seeks to interview Mr Trump and two of his adult children under oath. The Trumps recently appealed a judge’s order subjecting them to Ms James’ questioning.

In another court filing, Ms James revealed that Mr Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, severed ties with him and essentially recanted a decade of its financial statements.

Mazars also announced himself as a crucial witness in the criminal investigation. In January, Mr. Pomerantz questioned Mr. Trump’s accountant at Mazars before the grand jury, focusing on exaggerations in the financial statements.

But the statements also contained disclaimers, including acknowledgments that Mazars had neither audited nor authenticated Mr Trump’s claims, potentially complicating the case. And some of Mr. Bragg’s supporters argued it would have been difficult to win.

Still, Mr. Pomerantz wrote that he and other prosecutors believed they had amassed enough evidence to establish the former president’s guilt, writing that: “We believe the prosecution would prevail if charges were brought and that the case was tried by an impartial jury. ”

Addressing an apparent belief in Mr. Bragg’s office that they could lose at trial, Mr. Pomerantz wrote: “Respect for the rule of law and the need to reinforce the fundamental proposition that ‘no man ‘is above the law’ require prosecution even if conviction is uncertain.

Mr. Pomerantz is a former head of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, as well as a longtime defense attorney. He volunteered on the Trump investigation.

At the time, Mr. Dunne served as general counsel to Mr. Vance, a position he had held since early 2017. In that role, he successfully argued before the Supreme Court, gaining access to the records Mr. Trump’s tax bills.

Mr Dunne declined to comment.