Donald Trump will have to hand over his accounting records to a New York prosecutor: the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a new attempt by the former US president to escape it, relaunching a criminal investigation that could one day lead to his indictment.
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Asked by the lawyers of the ex-New York magnate, the Supreme Court, without comment or dissenting opinion, refused to overturn the decision of a federal judge who had ordered the accounting firm Mazars to submit eight years of tax returns and banking to Manhattan attorney Cyrus Vance, who has been asking for them for months.
The Supreme Court, which now has a majority of conservative judges, had already ordered Donald Trump in July 2020 to send these documents to the prosecutor. But the tycoon’s lawyers re-appealed to her to contest the scope of the documents requested.
“The work continues,” Cyrus Vance replied laconically.
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His investigation is taking place behind closed doors before a grand jury, and the Democratic prosecutor has made virtually no public statement on his progress. No one knows when it will end or if it resulted in prosecution, which would be a first for a former US president.
Initially focused on payments made, before the 2016 presidential election, to two alleged mistresses of the billionaire, the investigation is now also examining possible allegations of tax fraud, insurance fraud, or bank fraud, according to documents filed in court.
” Witch hunt ”
This investigation is only “the continuation of the biggest witch hunt in the history of our country”, reacted the ex-president Monday in a statement, accusing the New York democratic prosecutors of using “the right like a weapon ”.
“The Supreme Court should never have let (this) pass, but they did,” he lamented. “I will continue to fight, as I have been doing for five years (even before being elected) despite all the electoral crimes perpetrated against me. And we will win ”.
New York State Democratic Attorney Letitia James is also investigating the allegations of bank fraud and insurance fraud, in civil proceedings.
According to US media, investigators for Mr. Vance recently interviewed employees of Deutsche Bank – long financial backer of Donald Trump and his holding company, the Trump Organization – and his insurance company, Aon.
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They also re-questioned Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is currently completing, under house arrest, serving his three-year prison sentence handed down at the end of 2018.
He had told Congress that Trump and his company were artificially inflating or reducing the value of their assets, to alternately obtain bank loans or reduce their taxes.
Multiple judicial fronts
If Donald Trump were indicted, he would risk imprisonment if convicted. But many lawyers expect him to fight tooth and nail, and believe the legal battle could last for years.
Unlike federal offenses, violations of state laws cannot be pardoned by a US president, even though Joe Biden would like to avoid fueling political tensions.
Breaking with a well-established tradition since Jimmy Carter, the real estate developer and ex-reality TV star, who left New York permanently to settle in his club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida after leaving the White House on January 20, never published his tax returns.
He often promised to do so, but never followed through. His lawyers have continued to fight in court to delay the deadline.
In September 2020, the New York Times, after obtaining nearly two decades of tax documents, had published a major investigation indicating that the billionaire’s business suffered big losses and pushed him into large debt.
According to the newspaper, Donald Trump thus avoided paying federal taxes for 11 of the 18 years of archives obtained, and paid only $ 750 in 2016 and 2017.
In addition to this investigation by Mr Vance, the 74-year-old ex-president – recently acquitted by the US Senate after an impeachment trial for incitement to insurgency in the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol – is facing serious challenges. multiple legal attacks.
Most of the actions against him take place in civil courts.
A Georgia prosecutor, however, announced in early February the opening of a preliminary criminal investigation into “attempts to influence electoral operations in Georgia”, a key state where Donald Trump has increased pressure on electoral officials to do so. contest his defeat in the presidential election.