For a year and a half, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. struggled to get access to the tax records of former President Donald Trump.
Ok, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, he’s going to get them soon. But what does that mean for the Democrat’s investigation into the corporate affairs of Trump?
Former prosecutors claim the cache of documents could give investigators new resources before or after he took office to decide if Trump lied to lenders or tax officials.
“Prosecutors are searching for paperwork anomalies. For instance, if Trump told the IRS that he’s broke and lenders that he’s wealthy, that’s just the kind of difference they might build a case around,’ said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who served as Vance’s asset forfeiture chief on a wide range of white collar cases.
“These documents, Levin said, are a very important piece of the jigsaw puzzle.”
It is unclear if Trump’s documents would contain evidence of a crime. For years, the former president has maintained that he violated no laws and was wrongly persecuted for political purposes by Democrats.
Here’s a look at where the tax documents in the district attorney’s investigation might be useful, and where they might not help much:
Further back than just returns
To prevent his federal income tax returns from becoming public, Trump went to extraordinary lengths, but those aren’t the only important records contained in this shipment.
Not only should Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, turn over the final versions of Trump’s tax returns, but also draught versions of those returns and “any and all financial condition statements, annual statements, periodic financial reports, and reports from independent auditors” retained by the organisation.
Adam D. Citron, a former state prosecutor and partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said this might give state prosecutors a “open book” into Trump’s finances.
“It’s the kitchen sink, actually.” It may be important to review certain other records to decide if Trump or his firms gave tax authorities different details on his income than they gave to other officials, such as banks and business associates.
One of the original subpoenas sent to the Trump Organization called for details regarding payments Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged for women who had alleged to have had extramarital sexual affairs with Trump when the district attorney’s investigation first started.
Cohen said Trump’s company later reimbursed the adult film actress Stormy Daniels for one of those fees, disguising it in the form of a legal fee.
Whether Trump’s tax returns would add much to that portion of the investigation is not clear, though.
The New York Times, which received years of tax data from Trump, wrote that it included “no new disclosures” on Daniels’ payment and did not include any itemised payments to Cohen.
BREAKS DE TAX Any of the deals Trump made to minimise his tax bill have been investigated by the district attorney’s office.
In analysing if any of those manoeuvres crossed legal boundaries, data in the returns may be important.
One of the breaks under investigation is the one Trump received for donating to a conservation trust part of his Seven Springs land, north of New York City.
Whether Trump overvalued the land to get a bigger break than he deserved has been questioned by some experts. Investigators have already subpoenaed several records relevant to the land deal and obtained them.
In California, Trump benefited from a similar donation for conservation. TO LENDERS STATEMENTS
The full scope of its investigation has not been revealed by Vance’s office. But investigators also pointed to news stories in court filings that challenged whether the worth of his assets to banks and insurance firms has been chronically inflated by Trump.
Last month, the Associated Press announced that Vance’s office had recently interviewed Cohen for hours, questioning him about Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, his largest and longest-standing creditor, among other items.
One Washington Post article cited by prosecutors detailed how the number of home lots for sale at a California golf course, the acreage at one of his vineyards and the number of stories in Trump Tower were inflated by separate financial statements from the Trump Organization while missing debt details at his hotel projects in Chicago and Las Vegas.
Only one instrument that prosecutors will use to examine whether any of those statements amounted to fraud will be tax records. “Citron said of state prosecutors, “They’re going to look at valuations and property values. “They will look at the attorneys’ billings to see what their expenses were for.”
Monday’s ruling does not ensure that Trump’s financial records are seen by the public.
They are protected for now by the rules of grand jury secrecy.
Even if charges are brought in the case, if submitted to the record, those documents would likely be heavily redacted. I’m sure there’s going to be tonnes of litigation about that even then,” Citron said.”