A grand jury in Manhattan that was investigating former President Donald Trump for possible criminal conduct in his business was allowed to expire Friday without issuing charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who took office in January, inherited a probe launched by his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who was convinced that there was a strong case against Trump for crimes related to manipulating the value of property assets to secure tax advantages or better loan rates.
In his first months on the job, Bragg slammed the brakes on the Trump investigation that had been speeding along under his predecessor.
The grand jury was convened in November with a mandate to hear evidence against the former president but Bragg decided to pause the process, instead of finishing the presentation and asking the panel to vote on charges.
Bragg’s failure means that prosecutors can no longer rely on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to cooperate as a witness, despite claims by a former with that probe that there was plenty of evidence that Trump was guilty of numerous felonies.
Cohen wrote a book about his life as Trump’s fixer, and frequently criticizes the ex-president.
Cohen has made clear that he was willing to testify about how the Trump Organization conducted business if a case is brought but he recently said that Bragg’s failure to prosecute by the time the grand jury’s writ expired would exhaust his petience.
Cohen told The Daily Beast that he’s done: “I spent countless hours, over 15 sessions — including three while incarcerated. I provided thousands of documents, which coupled with my testimony, would have been a valid basis for an indictment and charge,” he said. “The fact that they have not done so despite all of this…I’m not interested in any further investment of my time.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said its investigation of the former president and the Trump Organization will continue, but the resignations of two key prosecutors from the probe virtually eliminated expectations of criminal charges against Trump in New York.
The expiration of the grand jury makes any potential indictment of Trump seem unlikely, as legal observers have said since Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne—two senior prosecutors who said Bragg was stalling the inquiry—quit in February, after the panel had been inactive for weeks, with jurors being told to stay home.
Trump’s “financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people,” said Pomerantz’s resignation letter.
Lawyers in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is a partner in the probe, are skeptical that any criminal case will be brought, people familiar with the situation said. They also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
A spokesperson for James said her investigation continues.
James is separately running a civil investigation of Trump’s business practices, and a lawyer from her office signaled Monday that a lawsuit could be filed in that case soon.
A judge is holding Trump in contempt of court and fining him $10,000 a day for failing to provide the records that James is seeking or to properly document the nature of his search for those records.
Trump’s lawyers are appealing both that order and a ruling by New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron requiring Trump and two of his adult children to be deposed by the attorney general’s team.
On Friday, Engoron rejected a bid by Trump to purge the contempt ruling after he and his attorneys submitted affidavits.
The affidavits “fail to specify” who conducted searches for the requested documents, or where and when searches took place, the judge said.
He called Trump’s two-paragraph sworn statement “completely devoid of any useful detail.”
Trump has long maintained that there was no illegal conduct — criminal or civil — related to the Trump Organization’s asset valuations. His legal team has accused James of a political vendetta.