Manhattan Prosecutor Probing Trump Won’t Seek Re-Election
(Bloomberg) -- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is overseeing a criminal investigation that poses one of the biggest legal threats to former President Donald Trump, won’t seek re-election.
“Over the next few months, while the election goes on outside, our work -- powered by your talent, ethics, and unbending professionalism -- will continue,” Vance said in a staff memo posted online Friday. “Inside, our investigations and trials -- from the high-profile to the ones that never make the newspaper -- will proceed.”
The news comes after a major victory in Trump investigation -- a Feb. 22 U.S. Supreme Court order granting Vance access to his tax returns. Last year Vance’s office also won a landmark high court ruling that presidents aren’t immune from state criminal investigations. The district attorney has recently beefed up his team on the case, adding veteran federal prosecutor Mark Pomerantz and hiring a top forensic accounting firm.
Vance’s decision means that, even if he decides to indict Trump, it will most likely fall to the next district attorney to actually prosecute the former president. The office has said it is looking at possible bank and insurance fraud violations. In December, Vance subpoenaed records relating to Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, the valuation of which is also the focus of a separate investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Vance, 66, was first elected district attorney in 2009.
If Vance had sought re-election, he would have faced a crowded June 22 primary. Six women and two men are already seeking the Democratic nomination. The candidates include veterans of Vance’s office, a former federal prosecutor, a state assemblyman, a civil rights lawyer and a public defender who was a contestant on the reality TV show “Survivor.”
The son of Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, Vance graduated from Yale and earned his law degree at Georgetown. He served as an assistant district attorney before winning the top job after his former boss, legendary Manhattan prosecutor Robert Morgenthau, retired after 34 years in charge.
When he took over running the office of 500 prosecutors, Vance promised a number of reforms, including alternatives to incarceration, drug treatment, a reduction in the number of cases his office prosecuted, and making cybercrimes a priority. He has slashed the office’s caseload from 100,000 when he took office in January 2010 to fewer than 50,000 last year.
The candidates running to succeed Vance are pushing even more progressive reforms. Several are campaigning on bringing fewer cases still, foreswearing prosecutions for crimes like prostitution and gang-related conspiracy. Some have vowed to defund the district attorney’s office along with the police. The race will essentially be decided in the primary, as no Republicans are running for the office.
Vance’s office has also investigated banks for violating sanctions, resulting in $14 billion in fines and forfeitures. BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to charges brought by Vance’s office in 2014 and paid $8.97 billion in state and federal penalties.
Vance has been dogged by some high-profile missteps. He dropped a 2011 sexual-assault case against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn after questions were raised about veracity of the accuser. One of Vance’s prosecutors in 2011 unsuccessfully tried to have Jeffrey Epstein classified at the lowest level of sex-offender. His office poured resources into a massive, drawn-out fraud case over the collapse of law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf that wound up producing few convictions. Vance was also criticized in 2015 for failing to pursue a case against Harvey Weinstein.
But Vance bounced back in recent years. In February 2020 his prosecutors scored a huge victory with the conviction of Weinstein, whose pattern of sexually predatory conduct gave rise to the #MeToo movement. The Trump investigation could be following a similar pattern. Vance’s office was sharply criticized in 2012 for deciding not to prosecute Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for misleading investors about the financial details of the onetime Trump Soho building.
In a statement ticking through numerous successes, Vance cited his Supreme Court win in the Trump subpoena case and his conviction of Weinstein.
“We made enduring, systemic reforms -- using the power of our discretion to massively reduce our criminal justice footprint and the inequities that underlie unnecessary prosecutions,” he said. “We modernized our office to future-proof our neighbors against cybercrime, terrorism, trafficking and other 21st-century threats.”
And Vance distinguished himself from predecessors who spent decades in office.
“I never thought of this as my last job, even though it’s the best job and biggest honor I’ll ever have,” he said.
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