Two of President Donald Trump's children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., were under investigation for allegedly misleading potential investors in the Trump Soho hotel-condominium—a criminal fraud offense—until their father's attorney Marc Kasowitz intervened in the fall of 2012.
A joint investigation by ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker published today details how Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. overrode his own prosecutors to quash the two year investigation shortly after meeting with Kasowitz, a civil litigator with little criminal law experience. At that point, the DA's office had issued subpoenas and collected email evidence from the Trumps in which brother and sister discussed how to keep their stories straight, according to seven people who'd read them.
Ivanka told reporters in 2010 that the 43-story luxury building was 60 percent sold, an important indicator of a safe investment. In fact, the DA's office reportedly found, the building was only 15.8 percent sold—just a hair past the 15 percent legal threshold for consumer protection.
Ivanka is currently a White House adviser, while Donald Jr. is managing the family real estate business.
Kasowitz, the outlets found, donated $25,000 to Vance's reelection campaign shortly before meeting with the DA in May 2012 about the Trump case. Vance returned that donation, and dropped the case three months later. Vance did not, however, return any subsequent donations bundled by Kasowitz in excess of $50,000, including $32,000 from Kasowitz himself—until now. From Propublica:
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 $50,000. 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 [$32,000] contribution, too. "I don't want the money to be a millstone around anybody's neck, including the office's," he said.
Vance, who is running unopposed for reelection this November, defended his decision to drop the case in an interview with WNYC reporters.
"I had always talked with Adam [Kaufmann, then-chief of Vance's investigative division] and my general counsel about my general concerns about whether this was worth our resources," he said.
"By the way, not every lie is a crime," he added.
Asked about Vance's decision to return Kasowitz's second donation four years later, Steve Sigmund, a spokesman for Vance's campaign, referred us to Vance's previous millstone comment.
"Contributions have never influenced Cy Vance's work and the never will," Sigmund added. "Every contribution is vetted through a rigorous process, accepted when appropriate, and returned when flagged. That's exactly what happened in this instance. Had Mr. Kasowitz had any influence over the matter, his 2013 contribution would have been flagged and returned."
"I donated to Cy Vance's campaign because I was and remain extremely impressed by him as a person of impeccable integrity, as a brilliant lawyer and as a public servant with creative ideas and tremendous ability," Kasowitz stated to reports.
Five months before Kasowitz met with Vance, the Trumps settled a civil suit with several Trump Soho investors. In return for 90 percent of their deposits and attorney fees, the disgruntled buyers reportedly promised not to cooperate with criminal prosecutors short of a subpoena.
"We acknowledge that the Defendants have not violated the criminal laws of the State of New York or the United States," the investors' lawyer wrote in a letter to the DA's office after that settlement.
A spokeswoman for Vance's office emphasized this reversal in a statement to Gothamist.
"This was a two-year investigation that never produced sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution," said Joan Vollero in a statement. "During the investigation, the luxury apartment purchasers reversed course and took the position that the sellers had not committed any crime against them. No outside attorney influenced any decision in this matter.”
The Trumps, WNYC's Illya Marritz points out, have been sued in civil court more than 4,000 times. The Trump Soho fraud case would have been significant because, "Neither Donald Trump or his children have been charged with a crime."