Still, the case dragged on

CREW re-upped this yesterday.

Oh yes, I remember that. I blogged it the day it appeared. Remember the exciting new development overlooking the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, where you could pay a huge price to buy a hotel room that you could occupy a maximum of 120 days a year? And the DA, Cyrus Vance, dropped the case?

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal-defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr., and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump’s attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator, with little experience in criminal matters. But, in 2012, Kasowitz donated twenty-five thousand dollars to the reëlection campaign of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower-level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped.

On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance’s office at One Hogan Place, in downtown Manhattan—a faded edifice made famous by the television show “Law & Order.” Dan Alonso, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.” (Kasowitz denied making such a statement.)

Vance defended his decision. “I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” he told us. “I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call.”

Just before the 2012 meeting, Vance’s campaign had returned Kasowitz’s twenty-five-thousand-dollar contribution, in keeping with what Vance describes as standard practice when a donor has a case before his office. Kasowitz “had no influence, and his contributions had no influence whatsoever on my decision-making in the case,” Vance said.

But, less than six months after the D.A.’s office dropped the case, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance’s campaign, and helped raise more from others—eventually, a total of more than fifty thousand dollars. After being asked about these donations as part of the reporting for this article—more than four years after the fact—Vance said he now plans to give back Kasowitz’s second contribution, too. “I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” he said.

So there’s that.

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