Prosecutors have been sending back documents to people who turned over information about former President Donald Trump’s business, in perhaps the starkest sign yet that the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into Trump may be winding down.
According to two people familiar with the situation, witnesses who had turned over key documents to investigators have suddenly been getting their evidence back in recent weeks.
Returning evidence is often a sign that an investigation is concluding, and the news comes one day after The New York Times published a leaked copy of a resignation letter from a top prosecutor who quit out of frustration that the new head of the office, District Attorney Alvin Leonard Bragg Jr., seems disinclined to criminally charge Trump.
In his resignation letter in February, seasoned prosecutor Mark Pomerantz wrote that Trump had lied on numerous financial statements and “committed crimes,” but he also said Bragg had “reached the decision not to go forward with the grand jury presentation and not to seek criminal charges at the present time.”
In response to questions Thursday, the DA’s office sent The Daily Beast a statement it had already released this week: “The investigation continues. A team of experienced prosecutors is working every day to follow the facts and the law. There is nothing we can or should say at this juncture about an ongoing investigation.”
The DA’s criminal investigation centers on alleged financial crimes at the former president’s corporate real-estate empire, the Trump Organization. It is the longest running, publicly known law enforcement effort against the former president and his family business. The previous district attorney, Cy Vance Jr., started the investigation and indicted the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer in July. Vance, however, quit before the case went to trial, and he was replaced by Bragg in January.
But now that Vance is gone, this historic undertaking—targeting a former U.S. president for the first time in the nation’s history—appears to be hitting a roadblock.
It’s been eight months since a grand jury indicted the company and then-CFO Allen Weisselberg. And yet the high-ranking executive hasn’t shown any signs of flipping on his boss. Turning him into a state’s witness would be key, given that the tax fraud investigation is proceeding akin to a mob takedown—with Trump at the top.
Potential criminal charges—with similar allegations of receiving fringe company benefits—never actually materialized against chief operating officer Matthew Calamari Sr. His defense attorney, Nicholas Gravante, has previously stated that he received indications that his client would not be indicted.
With movement on the case seeming to come to a halt, the two top prosecutors leading the team abruptly quit last month, with both citing the investigation in their resignation letters.
Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor, had come out of retirement to assist with the investigation. Carey Dunne, the office’s general counsel, was the one who successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the Manhattan DA’s Office should be able to seize Trump’s personal taxes—which remain locked away from the public. In losing them, the office lost two investigators who remained laser focused on the alleged crimes committed by Trump himself, multiple sources told The Daily Beast.
“Part of reforming our criminal legal system means holding accountable those who too often get a pass,” Eliza Orlins, a public defender who ran for Manhattan DA last year, said on Thursday. “But it’s business as usual at the Manhattan DA’s office—failure to hold the powerful to account while preying on the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
For weeks, lawyers for Trump, his family, and his hereditary business have been utterly convinced the Manhattan DA would not bring criminal charges against the ex-president. According to two sources with knowledge of the matter, the leak of the resignation letter this week caused some gloating and borderline elation among Trump attorneys, who viewed the leak as further evidence that criminal charges against Trump wouldn’t be dropping.
“There was some high-fiving,” one of the sources bluntly said.
Conversely, Bragg’s decision to not indict Trump at the moment—detailed in Pomerantz’s letter—has left several witnesses who helped in the investigation feeling used and disillusioned.
Jennifer Weisselberg, the ex-wife of the CFO’s son, became a witness in the investigation when prosecutors compelled her to speak to investigators. She has publicly detailed how Trump himself signed the checks that prosecutors cited in their indictment as untaxed corporate benefits to her family that skirted the law.
After emptying a retirement account to pay for lawyers to guide her through this legal process and a custody battle, she said the decision to not pursue criminal charges against Trump “lessens my credibility by saying that there really isn't a case there.”
“When you stand up and speak the truth against really scary people by yourself… I chose to be brave, and it seems like it was all in vain,” she said. “I feel like it's an injustice to me.”