The Manhattan district attorney’s super-secret criminal case against former President Donald Trump is largely a mirror image of the bank fraud lawsuit against him already filed publicly by the New York attorney general, according to a tell-all book written by a frustrated prosecutor who quit the DA’s team.
That explanation casts doubt on the DA’s recent claims that the book, which is due to hit bookshelves on Tuesday, could severely damage the revived investigation. But it also explains what has boggled some Americans for months: why AG Letitia James’ lawsuit reads like a criminal indictment.
The AG’s lawsuit—which accuses the Trumps of faking business records to dupe banks and dodge taxes—wants to kill the Trump Organization and seize what could be up to $1 billion of its assets. Her 222-page lawsuit details rampant criminal fraud, but her authority as New York State’s top prosecutor only allows her to seek a civil remedy.
People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account, written by former special assistant DA Mark Pomerantz, lays out how the AG’s office barrelled forward when the Manhattan DA hit the brakes.
According to a source familiar with the book, it describes how Pomerantz’s team of local county prosecutors collected evidence that Trump routinely lied to banks, insurers, and property appraisers to inflate the value of his properties. The team thought that the bank fraud angle was the strongest criminal case against Trump himself, but the incoming DA who inherited the investigation, Alvin Bragg Jr., halted the probe when he wasn’t guaranteed a victory. The team’s top two prosecutors, Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, quit in protest.
The book publisher Simon & Schuster has not made it publicly available for journalists to review. However, The Daily Beast was briefed on its contents.
According to four sources familiar with the DA’s investigation, the bank fraud case is the most robust—but complex—case against the former American president. But there are at least two others.
For years, prosecutors also explored a second case that Trump broke state laws when he falsified official business records to cover up the hush money payments to keep the porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about their brief affair, a scandal that led the feds to take down his consigliere Michael Cohen. However, four sources said the DA’s office was constrained by jurisdiction issues. Trump ran for federal office and is believed to have broken federal election finance laws by using his company to launder the payment. Proving that state laws were broken too was a heightened challenge for investigators. In New York, the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, so the falsification of business records would be limited to a misdemeanor as well—and prosecutors were reluctant to file such a weak case on its own.
These sources said a third case, that the Trump Organization faked business records to enrich executives and dodge taxes, was the simplest to prove.
“The documents speak for themselves,” all four sources said in separate interviews.
But what made the case so easy—the documents—only implicated the company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and his deputy, Jeffrey S. McConney. Trump’s signature was on a memo approving a screwy benefits scheme, but it wasn’t enough. So the DA’s office gave McConney complete immunity for his financial crimes in this case on the condition that he testify before a grand jury. Prosecutors proceeded to indict the CFO and two Trump companies. Weisselberg is now behind bars at the notorious Rikers Island jail, and the Trump companies were ordered to pay $1.6 million.
Pomerantz’s book is expected to dive into each of these three theories of criminality.
His memoir could also shed light on the interesting timing of the team’s unraveling a year ago. The new details about the book indicate that Bragg showed a reluctance to indict Trump just as the AG—who was running a parallel investigation with his office—came out swinging in public. According to two sources familiar with the situation, Bragg wasn’t convinced in the ability to successfully prosecute Trump for bank fraud during his first month in office in January 2022.
Meanwhile, the AG felt so convinced that her case was solid that she took the bold and surprising move of laying out key details in public court documents on Jan. 18, 2022, when she asked a judge to force the Trumps to testify behind closed doors.
If the DA’s case truly is a mirror image of the AG’s case, then Pomerantz’s book will highlight the DA’s timidity while bolstering the AG’s fighting spirit.
Then again, as one former prosecutor who recently left Bragg’s office pointed out, criminal cases require convincing juries “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” while civil cases, like the one taken on by the AG, only require what’s called “the preponderance of the evidence” to tilt the scales, which is equivalent to 51 percent certainty.
The prospect of a tell-all memoir about an ongoing investigation is anathema to seasoned prosecutors, who told The Daily Beast that Pomerantz could run the risk of running afoul of grand jury secrecy rules. The actions of a grand jury as they deliberate on whether or not to indict someone are one of the most secretive aspects of the American justice system, and the book promises to shed light on how the DA conducted its investigation—which included months of work before a grand jury.
Simon & Schuster has billed the book as a “fascinating inside account of the attempt to prosecute former president Donald Trump.”
One of Bragg’s closest advisers, DA general counsel Leslie B. Dubeck, sent a letter last month to the book’s publisher warning of a “meaningful risk” that it could harm the effort to hold the former president accountable in court.
Last week, The Daily Beast revealed the contents of an odd nondisclosure agreement—one not typically used by prosecutors offices—that Pomerantz signed when he initially joined the team in December 2020. In that contract, Pomerantz promised to keep every aspect of the investigation secret, even the investigation’s mere existence. The NDA includes a vague threat about potential jail time.
But if the book really does say that the DA’s best case was already laid out in full back when AG Letitia James filed her lawsuit in September, the worries about it blowing up an investigation could ring hollow.