New York prosecutor expands inquiry into Trump 'criminal conduct'

4 August 2020, 07:02

Mr Trump has called the probe a 'witch hunt' and a 'hoax'
Mr Trump has called the probe a 'witch hunt' and a 'hoax'. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A New York prosecutor seeking US President Donald Trump's tax returns says he is investigating reports of "protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization".

The Manhattan prosecutor has told a judge his requests are justified due to the reports of "criminal conduct" in Trump's company.

Monday's court filing suggests the inquiry is broader than alleged hush-money payments made to two women who say they had affairs with Mr Trump.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that lawyers could examine the tax returns a move which Trump's lawyers claimed was issued in bad faith.

Mr Trump has repeatedly dismissed the probe, calling it a "witch hunt".

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is seeking eight years of the President's personal and corporate tax records but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than part of the investigation relates to pay-offs to women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Mr Trump.

In a court filing on Monday, though, attorneys for Mr Vance said Mr Trump's arguments that the subpoena was too broad stemmed from "the false premise" that the probe was limited to so-called "hush-money" payments.

"This court is already aware that this assertion is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record," Mr Vance's lawyers wrote.

The Republican president accuses the Manhattan prosecutor, a Democrat, of pursuing a political vendetta.

Last week, Mr Trump's lawyers filed a complaint arguing the subpoena was "wildly overbroad" and issued in bad faith.

Lawyers for Mr Vance responded in court documents filed on Monday claiming allegations of criminal activity at the Trump Organization date back "over a decade".

Citing newspaper articles about supposed bank and insurance fraud at the Trump Organisation Mr Vance's lawyers said that inquiry extends beyond purported hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The President denies the affairs took place, but such violate campaign financing laws.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump described the investigation as "Democratic stuff".

"They failed with Mueller," he said, referring to the justice department investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller that failed to establish the president had colluded with the Kremlin during his election campaign. "They failed with everything, they failed with Congress, they failed at every stage of the game."

He added: "This is a continuation of the worst witch hunt in American history."

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"Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the 'temporary absolute immunity' that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court," Mr Vance's lawyers said.

"Every such day also increases the prospect of a loss of evidence or the expiration of limitations periods - the precise concerns that the Supreme Court observed justified its rejection of Plaintiff's immunity claim in the first place."

The Supreme Court last month rejected claims by Mr Trump's lawyers that the president could not be criminally investigated while he was in office.

Mr Vance's lawyers said Mr Trump was not entitled to know the scope and nature of the grand jury investigation.

But they said information already in the public domain about Mr Trump's business dealings provided satisfactory support for the subpoena of his tax records.

They cited several newspaper articles, including one in the Washington Post examining allegations that Mr Trump had a practice of sending out financial statements to potential business partners and banks that inflated the worth of his properties by claiming they were bigger or more potentially lucrative than they were.