After a years-long legal battle, former president Donald Trump finally surrendered his tax and financial records to a New York state criminal probe. The Supreme Court rejected his Hail-Mary pass to invalidate a grand jury subpoena requesting the records. A few days later, the Trump Organization handed the records over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The criminal probe
Vance has been investigating possible financial crimes within the Trump Organization since 2018. Criminal charges might include bank and insurance fraud as well as campaign law violations. The investigation is also probing hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and another woman in 2016. Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has said the payments were intended to protect Trump’s image leading up to the 2016 election.
In the current probe, a grand jury issued a subpoena for eight years of records – including business and personal tax returns – in 2019. Trump fought the subpoena all the way up to the Supreme Court twice. Last summer, the court rejected his argument that he couldn’t be subjected to state criminal investigations while still in office.
Possible charges include bank and insurance fraud and campaign law violations. For now, though, the investigation is in confidential proceedings with a grand jury.
Although Trump’s records are now in Vance’s hands, they likely won’t be made public any time soon. Grand jury proceedings in New York are confidential. If and when Vance brings charges, he may divulge some of the records in support of the criminal complaint. But given the scope and complexity of the possible financial wrongdoing, it will likely take time.
The case reflects a common challenge in complex financial crime investigations: They frequently involve thousands or even millions of pages of documents. Combing through those documents can be a lengthy and tedious process.
True to form, Trump has leveraged one of his more effective defense strategies – delay, delay, delay. By stalling the legal proceedings and challenging the subpoena, Trump has been running the clock on the statute of limitations for financial crimes, which is relatively short in New York.
For Vance, the pressure is on to bring solid, evidence-backed charges before time runs out.