DA’s latest big decision: whether to indict Trump | WGN 720 radio

NEW YORK (AP) – After a dozen years in office, there is an unfinished business for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. before he retires at the end of the month: The attorney known for will his prudence come out brilliantly to lay criminal charges against Donald Trump?

Vance, who spent more than two years investigating the former president, questioned whether he would seek the indictment of Trump or leave the decision to the next district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a fellow Democrat who will take over on January 1.

“I really can’t talk about the Trump case, so I’m not going to talk about the Trump case,” Vance said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “But I think it’s pretty clear that our investigation is active and ongoing.”

Vance, 67, has continued to sue Trump over his business practices even as he packs his bags to quit the job he has held since 2010.

After indicting the Trump Organization and one of its executives with tax evasion last June, Vance called a new grand jury that could potentially bring a new indictment in what could be a time of building legacy. . No former president has ever been charged with a crime.

But rushing to settle the case before Jan. 1 might also be out of character for a prosecutor who holds few press conferences, does few interviews, and is known for his methodical approach.

While Vance is perhaps best known for overseeing Harvey Weinstein’s #MeToo rape conviction last year, he has also been criticized for being hesitant to bring potentially risky cases involving the powerful.

Either way, Vance said he had no future political aspirations and had little to gain from attention.

“I’m not running again, so politically it doesn’t make sense to me,” he told the PA. “I didn’t get the impression that politics was involved in my mind or in the minds of anyone in this office.”

Vance, the son of former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Sr., presided over a significant change in the district attorney’s office, where he oversaw a team of 500 lawyers with an annual budget of around $ 125 million. of dollars.

Like other Democratic prosecutors in the city, he has abandoned the iron-fist approach to quality-of-life crimes that was once a hallmark of criminal justice in the city.

Vance has dropped most prosecutions for possession and smoking of marijuana and for skipping subway turnstiles, slashing cases handled by his office by nearly 60% – although some activists have said he was not gone quite far.

It has also reviewed cases involving wrongful convictions. Last month, Vance went to court to overturn the convictions of Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam, who he said wrongly spent years in prison for the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X.

Vance also kept his promises to tackle unsolved cases, sending a man to jail for what had been one of the city’s most notorious unsolved crimes, the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, 6 year.

Yet Vance also fought off criticism that he had a two-tiered justice system – one for ordinary New Yorkers, another for the rich and famous.

His career-defining victory last year in the Weinstein case only came after he refused to make similar charges in 2015 after a model accused the movie mogul of tampering with his. chest. Vance said there was not enough evidence of a sexual assault.

In 2011, Vance dropped the rape lawsuit against French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund, over concerns over the accuser’s credibility.

Vance investigated Trump’s two eldest children for potential fraud at a hotel project ten years ago, but declined to press charges.

In 2016, his office struck a deal that allowed a prominent gynecologist accused of sexually abusing patients to avoid prison – a case that has since been reopened amid public outcry.

Vance, speaking to the AP, said his office has prosecuted many people “of power and authority,” that his office has taken on thousands of cases of sex crimes and is often relied on the expertise of its career sex crimes prosecutors on prosecution decisions. .

Nonetheless, he acknowledged the criticisms and described the action taken by his office, including bringing in an outside consultant to take a close look at the functioning of his sex crimes office.

“To those who criticize our decisions, I would say that we, I think, have learned a lot from the #MeToo movement,” Vance said. “Of course we didn’t do it perfectly and you’re going to make people unhappy with this job just by the nature of the job and the decisions you make. It happens from time to time and it has happened to me from time to time. What I can just commit to is that the efforts of our lawyers have always been to try to get the right result. “

Trump’s take on Vance is that he is just another Democrat keen to get him on a partisan “witch hunt.”

“New York is dying before our eyes, and all Democratic prosecutors are focused on how we can get and punish Donald Trump,” the former president said in his last missive Wednesday.

The district attorney’s investigation, which initially began as an examination of hidden money payments made to women on behalf of Trump, has expanded to an investigation into whether the president’s company has misled lenders or authorities tax in error on the value of its properties.

The June indictments allege the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg evaded taxes on lucrative employee benefits paid to executives. Prosecutors did not charge Trump, but noted that he had signed checks at the center of the case.

Vance researched Trump’s personal tax records as part of the investigation, ultimately winning them through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Shortly after the court ruling, he announced he would not be running again.

Vance told the AP he never planned to serve two or three four-year terms – a relative cup of coffee compared to his predecessors Robert Morgenthau, who served for 34 years, until age 90, and Frank Hogan, who stayed for 31 years.

“I didn’t want to be DA forever and wanted to have another chapter or two after I quit this job,” Vance said.

In the process, he also avoided a potential primary fight with Progressive Democrats who have said his criminal justice reforms don’t go far enough.

“In many ways he’s kind of old school and, to his credit, methodical,” said Rebecca Roiphe, professor at New York Law School. “He might not have been the best at handling public relations, and I don’t think he was the best at running his office – making sure his principles, policies and commitments are reflected in every courtroom and in every prosecutor – but I think he’s a decent prosecutor trying to do the right thing in most of these situations. “

As DA, Vance became interested in global efforts to prevent cyberattacks, gun violence, and sex trafficking – issues he says he wants to continue working on in the private sector after he retires.

Vance also used an $ 800 million slush fund funded by Wall Street settlements to provide police officers with smartphones, build neighborhood gyms, and help reduce the national backlog in rape kit tests, an effort that earned her national attention and praise from “Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay.

Vance modestly assesses himself, saying he took what was already “perhaps the largest 20th century prosecutor’s office in the country” and made it one of the largest of the 21st century.

The next two weeks will show whether Vance is happy with his legacy as it is, or intends to make another attempt to rewrite his place in the history books.


Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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