- It’s been exactly one year since SCOTUS ruled in favor of allowing Manhattan prosecutors access to Donald Trump’s tax returns.
- Former Manhattan prosecutors say it’s not unusual for complex financial probes to take years.
- Trump’s lawyers have predicted that for all their probing, investigators will come up empty-handed.
Exactly one year ago today, the US Supreme Court handed former President Donald Trump what was seen as a decisive loss — ruling he cannot keep his tax returns secret from a Manhattan grand jury.
A year into crunching the numbers from eight years of Trump’s corporate and personal taxes, prosecutors have yet to bring charges against the former president, something his lawyers have said only demonstrates the weakness of the investigation.
But former Manhattan prosecutors told Insider that neither Trump’s foes nor fans should read anything into how long things are taking.
“It’s a huge undertaking, and it takes an incredible amount of time,” said former prosecutor Diana Florence. “Add to that, it’s a former president — it just makes it that much more complicated.”
The offices of the Manhattan District and the New York Attorney General are parallel his criminal investigations into Trump business.
The DA’s probe is nearly three years old, and so far has resulted in limited tax charges against The Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg.
At least ten of Trump’s properties are being probed, according to court filings. Investigators say they have gathered some five million pages of Trump Organization documents, including the tax returns and supporting documents given to the DA after last year’s SCOTUS ruling.
Sifting through that much data — and determining if any crimes have been committed — is time-intensive work, former Manhattan prosecutors say.
In complex white-collar investigations, all documents must be transferred electronically into a keyword-searchable case database, said Florence, who handled complex enterprise corruption cases as the former chief of the DA’s construction fraud task force.
“But it’s not computers that are ultimately looking at these documents,” she added. “It’s forensic accountants and experts. It’s human beings, at the end of the day. It’s as much an art as it is a science. And all of this takes time.”
Prosecutors must “go and verify each statement of fact in the return,” said John Moscow, who also prosecuted complex economic crimes during his 30 years at the Manhattan DA’s office.
“You don’t say the return is false until you can prove that its constituent parts, taken together, are false,” said Moscow, who is now senior counsel with Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss. “And that takes time.”
Aside from the first charges against Weisselberg and Trump’s company, no charges have been filed.
But Moscow and another former Manhattan prosecutor, Jeremy Saland, posited that — based on the public record so far — one possibility is that the AG and the DA may be readying a much more comprehensive case.
Lawyers for Trump and The Trump Organization have steadfastly denied wrongdoing.
Whatever Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Attorney General Letitia James wind up doing — including not filing any new charges at all — the eyes of the world will be upon them.
“Any mistake, even if it’s superficial, will be ridiculed and exposed,” Saland said. “They just have to make sure they dot their ‘I’s’ and cross their ‘T’s.”‘