Court filings by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Monday led to renewed speculation that prosecutors in New York have targeted President Donald Trump with a wider probe into possible fraud or other financial crimes than was previously known—demanding eight years of personal as well as business tax documents just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a subpoena for such material must be honored.
According to the New York Times, the first news outlet to report the new developments:
The prosecutors did not directly identify the focus of their inquiry but said that "undisputed" news reports last year about Mr. Trump's business practices make it clear that the office had a legal basis for the subpoena.
The reports, including investigations into the president's wealth and an article on the congressional testimony of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, said that the president may have illegally inflated his net worth and the value of his properties to lenders and insurers. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have said he did nothing wrong.
The clash over the subpoena comes less than a month after the Supreme Court, in a major ruling on the limits of presidential power, cleared the way for Mr. Vance's prosecutors to seek Mr. Trump's financial records.
It was reporting about Trump's financial maneuvers in the past—including indications of a vast effort to mislead both banks and the government over the value of certain assets or earnings—that formed the basis of an explosive Times exposé published in October of 2018. At the center of that reporting were documents provided to the newspaper by Trump's niece, Mary Trump, who recently published a tell-all book about her powerful uncle and the family dynamics in which both he and she grew up.
As the 2018 Times exposé alleges:
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Much of [his inherited] money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents' real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.
Monday's filings in Manhattan, notes Axios, "suggests that Vance's investigation, which was believed to be examining hush money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election, is much broader in scope."
Responding to the developments on social media, veteran political journalist Dan Froomkin said: "This has to be how the story ends, right? With Trump going down for 'illegally inflating his net worth'? Otherwise it's just sadism by the Writers." To which Eric Gelman, editor of Bloomberg's Businessweek, retorted:
Other observers noted that it was the demand by Trump's own lawyers, in addition to aspects of how the Supreme Court ruled on the previous challenge, that likely compelled the District Attorney's office in New York to make it more clear that their ongoing investigation is much broader in scope and potentially must more serious.
"No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court's majority opinion last month.
Shanlon Wu, a legal analyst for CNN, noted it was a "great example of Trump strategy back-firing—by forcing Manhattan DA's office to further detail/justify reasons for their subpoena they also forced disclosure of fact that Trump and his company under a live criminal investigation. Oops."