Patterico's Pontifications

3/12/2021

New Yorker: Inside the Cyrus Vance Investigation Into Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



Interesting article about the Manhattan D.A.’s Trump investigation in The New Yorker. Onlookers can’t help noticing that things have picked up quite a bit in the office. They have Trump’s financial records, they have hired an experienced former federal prosecutor who knows fraud, and they have been repeatedly interviewing Michael Cohen (at least seven times so far!) — hopefully not as a star witness, exactly, but as someone who might be able to give them a behind the scenes look at how the manipulations happened.

I can’t give you much of a prediction of whether charges will be filed, and anyone who claims they can is blowing smoke. We learn in the article that Vance is not running for re-election, and will be out of office after December, so he’s not doing this to keep himself in power.

However, I would like to quote a couple of passages that illustrate what is at stake; namely, the very notion of applying the rule of law to everyone.

Vance’s investigation, which appears to be focussed largely on business practices that Trump engaged in before taking office, may seem picayune in comparison with the outrageous offenses to democratic norms that Trump committed as President. But the New York University historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, whose recent book “Strongmen” examines the characteristics of antidemocratic rulers, told me, “If you don’t prosecute Trump, it sends the message that all that he did was acceptable.” She pointed out that strongmen typically “inhabit a gray zone between illegal and legal for years”; corrupt acts of political power are just an extension of their shady business practices. “Trumpism isn’t just about him,” Ben-Ghiat went on. “It’s a whole way of being in the world. It’s about secrecy, domination, trickery, and fraud.” She said, of Vance’s probe, “It’s symbolic for the public, and very important to give the public a sense of accountability.”

Also:

[T]he contest between Vance and Trump is about much more than a financial investigation. It’s a stress test of the American justice system. George Conway, a lawyer and a Trump critic, who is married to the former President’s adviser Kellyanne Conway, said, “Trump is a man who has gotten away with everything his entire life. He’s an affront to the rule of law, and to all law-abiding citizens.” In office, Trump often treated the law as a political weapon, using the Justice Department as a tool for targeting enemies. Now he is pitted against a D.A. who regards the law as the politically blind foundation of democracy. As Conway put it, “For Trump, the law is a cudgel. For Vance, it’s what holds us together as a civilization. And that’s why people who thumb their noses at it have to be prosecuted. If they aren’t, you’re taking a big step toward a world where that is acceptable.”

I hear all the time that prosecuting former political officials is banana republic stuff, and my response is always the same: it depends on whether they’re guilty. If they are, not prosecuting them is banana republic stuff. Whether it’s Israel, Italy, France, or other countries I could name, modern countries don’t fall apart simply because former (or current!) officials are indicted or jailed. Do you think Russia is a better example of the rule of law because we know it would never allow a prosecution of Putin or a high government official close to Putin? If that’s your position, you live in a different world from the rest of us.

So let’s see if Trump is guilty. If he’s not, let’s move on dot org. If he is, I hope Vance nails him to the wall.

49 Responses to “New Yorker: Inside the Cyrus Vance Investigation Into Trump”

  1. The biggest part of the problem with prosecuting Trump is that so many of his supporters are conspiracy theorists who are impervious to facts that don’t support their priors and deeply invested in the idea that they’re being persecuted by ‘the elite’.

    For a while I was concerned with how to reach them, now I think it’s pointless to try. Do the right thing, go where the facts take you, and hope for the best.

    Time123 (89dfb2)

  2. It doesn’t make sense that Vance would walk away from a historic case like this, unless there’s no case, or unless he has an Andrew Cuomo problem…

    Paul Montagu (77c694)

  3. This is an area where i’m deeply, deeply torn.

    On the one hand, if he’s guilty, we need to prosecute Trump.

    On the other hand, his fanbois will never believe it and will use it as precedent-justification for frivolous prosecutions of future Presidents.

    I don’t see a path that doesn’t involve tremendous long-term damage to the Republic.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  4. as with conway and like minded, vance’s rule of law zeal stops where trump ends

    ask harvey weinstein’s victims

    but david boies threw money vance’s way, and vance extended the slush to cuomo

    rule of law my a$$

    JF (3efb60)

  5. it depends on whether they’re guilty. If they are, not prosecuting them is banana republic stuff.

    Well, it depends, of course. Not every violation of a statute needs prosecuting. But sure, ignoring significant violations (e.g. Jon Corzine escaping — in the waning days of the Obama administration — with only civil penalties after his company “somehow” looted customer funds to prop up huge bad bets at MF Global).

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  6. What crime are they investigating? Seems like they are just digging into Trumps records hoping to unearth something, anything. Is that how investigations normally work?

    Mattsky (55d339)

  7. How much shielding does Trump get from accountants, tax lawyers, and middle management? Obviously Leona Helmsley got caught, but I always wonder about the liability.

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  8. I don’t see a path that doesn’t involve tremendous long-term damage to the Republic.

    The damage is already done. Letting it go doesn’t help. Trump arranged for that crowd to be there. He had told known extremists to stand ready. He exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight.” The moment you can show that he intended them to enter the building and intimidate, harm or otherwise hunt down the Members who were not doing his bidding, he has literally committed Treason.

    And that’s a crime.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  9. What crime are they investigating? Seems like they are just digging into Trumps records hoping to unearth something, anything. Is that how investigations normally work?

    Normally? It’s how they go after Mafia bosses and other high-profile assh0les.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  10. Hilarious hypocritical quote of the day:

    “I am not part of the political club.” – N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo 3/12/21

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  11. The crimes most often talked about are straight ahead tax fraud; reporting fictional evaluations of properties to secure favorable tax treatment. Or more simply lying to the government for your financial benefit.

    If that isn’t prosecuted well, it kind of disincentives a reasonably effective tax system.

    Victor (4959fb)

  12. If that isn’t prosecuted well, it kind of disincentives a reasonably effective tax system.

    It is rarely discovered, which is why there is so much of it. There are so many ways of shuffling stuff around, like a 3-card monte game, that often a full investigation doesn’t produce results.

    You prosecute what you find, of course, but there is a lot of political protection, too. Geithner comes to mind. Trump has a decent argument that this is all political retribution, and he has quite a few people who will believe him, so maybe aprhael is right that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  13. Of course with Trump’s financial statements I’d bet on clumsy.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  14. Investigation is one thing and prosecution is another. To prosecute someone in court you need to build a solid case with competent, emphasis on competent, admissible evidence. Hearsay and assorted leaked copies of documents published in the New York Times are not enough.

    nk (1d9030)

  15. as with conway and like minded, vance’s rule of law zeal stops where trump ends

    ask harvey weinstein’s victims

    but david boies threw money vance’s way, and vance extended the slush to cuomo

    rule of law my a$$

    JF (3efb60) — 3/12/2021 @ 9:40 am

    thank you for illustrating my point.

    Time123 (af99e9)

  16. Want to make Putin smile? Imprison an ex-POTUS.

    Nyet. Won’t happen. Bad look for America.

    Can’t shame this fella, anyway.

    Hell, Congress impeached him.

    Twice. And failed.

    Public exile; hefty fines… sure. Try it. But he may just try a run again– and he’ll never go to the pokie.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  17. If that isn’t prosecuted well, it kind of disincentives a reasonably effective tax system.

    It is rarely discovered, which is why there is so much of it. There are so many ways of shuffling stuff around, like a 3-card monte game, that often a full investigation doesn’t produce results.

    You prosecute what you find, of course, but there is a lot of political protection, too. Geithner comes to mind. Trump has a decent argument that this is all political retribution, and he has quite a few people who will believe him, so maybe aprhael is right that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 3/12/2021 @ 10:27 am

    I believe Trump’s state tax returns include coppies of his federal returns. So Vance has had those for a while. What I think he’s after is evidence from the accounting firm that Trump knew what he was doing broke the law. If i understand correctly that’s required for a criminal charge. It can’t just be wrong, you have to convince a jury that they knew what they were doing was wrong. But, i’m not a lawyer.

    Time123 (89dfb2)

  18. This is an area where i’m deeply, deeply torn.

    On the one hand, if he’s guilty, we need to prosecute Trump.

    On the other hand, his fanbois will never believe it and will use it as precedent-justification for frivolous prosecutions of future Presidents.

    I don’t see a path that doesn’t involve tremendous long-term damage to the Republic.

    aphrael (4c4719) — 3/12/2021 @ 9:27 am

    His fanbois still think that the election was stolen, there’s no point in worrying about them.

    Time123 (89dfb2)

  19. So let’s see if Trump is guilty. If he’s not, let’s move on dot org. If he is, I hope Vance nails him to the wall.

    Agreed.

    I’ve heard this criticism in the past, and George Conway pushed it again:
    using the Justice Department as a tool for targeting enemies.

    Did that really happen? I know he used the DOJ to help his allies, a totally different issue. But did he sicc the DOJ to his enemies? Was that about the Ukraine ordeal?

    whembly (fd0490)

  20. @17 Time123 (89dfb2) — 3/12/2021 @ 11:51 am:

    If i understand correctly that’s required for a criminal charge. It can’t just be wrong, you have to convince a jury that they knew what they were doing was wrong. But, i’m not a lawyer.

    Correct. It’s basically why Andrew Weismann’s case against Author Anderson was unanimously thrown out by SCOTUS. (reason numeral uno why my animus towards him tends to be hot).

    whembly (fd0490)

  21. @20, thank you

    Time123 (af99e9)

  22. I don’t understand why imprisoning Trump would make Putin smile.

    I really don’t understand why I should give a damn as regards consistent enforcement of tax laws in the U.S. as to what emotional state it leaves Putin in.

    Victor (4959fb)

  23. @22.I don’t understand why imprisoning Trump would make Putin smile.

    … and Putin laughed.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  24. “If you don’t prosecute Trump, it sends the message that all that he did was acceptable.”

    Congress, the very embodiment of America’s lawmakers themselves, tried via impeachment.

    Twice.

    And failed.

    Twice.

    Justice finds a way… but it won’t be through the legal system. Hair loss might do it.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  25. Kevin M (ab1c11) — 3/12/2021 @ 10:12 am

    Trump arranged for that crowd to be there.

    Or some of it. He didn’t provide buses. but he should have known who was involved.

    He had told known extremists to stand ready.

    This was stumbling over words. The media ddn;’t have to amplify it. It should have been “stand down.” Anyway, he never did more

    He exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight.”

    A metaphor, and he also wanted members of Congress to fight. He wanted them to go a second scheduled rally, at which he intended to speak. That whole second rally seems to have disappeared into the memory hole.

    When and how his appearance was cancelled – or even the question of whether his plans were real – is extremely important.

    The moment you can show that he intended them to enter the building and intimidate, harm or otherwise hunt down the Members who were not doing his bidding, he has literally committed Treason.

    If he intended to speak at the Capitol, he could not have intended the riot.

    What C Vance is investigating him for is mainly using different evaluations of real estate for property tax purposes and for loans. Maybe in theory it is supposed to have one real value.

    Sammy Finkelman (4227f2)

  26. Congress, the very embodiment of America’s lawmakers themselves, tried via impeachment.

    Twice.

    And failed.

    Twice.

    Sorry buddy, that’s not a legitimate criminal prosecution because many of the jurors were part of Trump’s effort to reverse the election outcome.

    Traitors.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  27. @26. ‘Congress Illegitimate.’

    Film at 11.

    Thank you, Dustin.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  28. What President Plagiarist should do is steal a move from Jerry Ford and pardon Trump. Force him into a defensive position to either accept it or reject it, a la Nixon. As Ford would tell you, by accepting it, it is a tantamount acknowledgement of guilt. If he rejects it- keep going after him in the state courts anyway.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  29. Congress, the very embodiment of America’s lawmakers themselves, tried via impeachment.

    Twice.

    And failed.

    Twice.

    Jurors in criminal trials are vetted for any hint of bias for against the accused. That doesn’t happen in an impeachment trial. The people who whine that part of Congress was biased against Trump always ignore the fact that the other part was (mostly) biased in his favor and saw it as being in their own self-interest to acquit him.

    Radegunda (f4d5c0)

  30. Hit it, Billy:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM4LzEcaTK0

    Breaking – NY’s Schumer & Gillibrand call on Cuomo to resign.

    “Bayonets!!!” — Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain [Jeff Daniels] ‘Gettysburg’ 1993

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  31. @29. Nobody cares, R. If ‘the greatest ‘deliberative body’ full of lawmakers blew it twice; who gives a damn about a corrupt state government wasting resources on it now as well.

    Americans are moving on from the pandemic- and Trump.

    PBS has been running their series on the life and death of the circus. There’s a lot of Trump parallels in it.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  32. @2.

    Manhattan DA Cy Vance announces he won’t run for reelection

    Manhattan DA Cy Vance announces he won’t run for reelection March 12, 2021, 6:40 AM

    Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. has announced that he will not seek reelection for a fourth term in office, which would begin January 2022.

    ____

    Cy Vance announced Friday he would not seek another term as Manhattan District Attorney, a position he used to prosecute Harvey Weinstein and investigate former President Donald Trump. Vance is departing this December after more than a decade atop one of the most prominent and powerful prosecutors’ offices in the country. – nbc.com

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  33. @29. Nobody cares, R. If ‘the greatest ‘deliberative body’ full of lawmakers blew it twice; who gives a damn about a corrupt state government wasting resources on it now as well.

    Americans are moving on from the pandemic- and Trump.

    PBS has been running their series on the life and death of the circus. There’s a lot of Trump parallels in it.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 3/12/2021 @ 2:57 pm

    I care and you care even more than I do.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  34. @33. I care and you care even more than I do.

    Congress blew it, so don’t bet on it.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  35. what did they blow? removing Trump from office? He’s not in office.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  36. 6 “… Is that how investigations normally work?”

    It depends. There are two types of investigations. In one you start with the crime and try to figure out who did it. In the other you start with the potential defendant and try to find a crime you can charge him with. Obviously the second type can be abused.

    James B. Shearer (f7721e)

  37. “So let’s see if Trump is guilty. ..”

    It depends on what he is guilty of. If it is something that isn’t normally criminally prosecuted the prosecution is going to be seen as political.

    James B. Shearer (f7721e)

  38. If it is something that isn’t normally criminally prosecuted the prosecution is going to be seen as political.

    He should shoot children dead in a schoolyard and many would view the prosecution as political. Some would say the kids had it coming.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  39. Manhattan DA Cy Vance announces he won’t run for reelection

    There’s a governor’s race opening up.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  40. Jurors in criminal trials are vetted for any hint of bias for against the accused. That doesn’t happen in an impeachment trial.

    It is a matter of established precedent that Senators are not jurors. In fact, they are not bound by most rules that jurors must abide. They can talk to whom they want, discuss the case among themselves (or with either side), and find out their own information outside of the proceedings and act on it.

    Impeachment is not a criminal procedure, it’s a political one. The question they faces is not “Is guilt proved?” but rather “Do we want to remove them from office?” (actual guilt is not required).

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  41. If i understand correctly that’s required for a criminal charge. It can’t just be wrong, you have to convince a jury that they knew what they were doing was wrong

    Trump has a good “Duh!” defense here, claiming the tax accountants told him it was all up and up.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  42. @35. They lacked ‘conviction,’ Dustin.

    Don’t let him live rent free in your head.

    The objective is justice; the very worst thing you can do to him is ignore him. He’ll react w/over the top flamboyance for a time to gain attention, then, like an old-style light bulb, burn out. Or in his case, be found face down in a bowl of German chocolate cake between two scoops of melting Dolly Madison vanilla ice cream.

    You’ve been handed a grand opportunity: a doddering, doom and gloom one-term POTUS who is more Jimma Carter than Jimma Carter hiz-self w/a VEEP who couldn’t even win a primary in her own party.

    All you need to do is unite behind one candidate w/a positive message, projecting a boundless future with unlimited possibilities who’ll ‘make America great again’… and it isn’t a Reagan… nor a Trump.

    You just might win a Ronnie Redux.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  43. @2.

    Manhattan DA Cy Vance announces he won’t run for reelection

    Manhattan DA Cy Vance announces he won’t run for reelection March 12, 2021, 6:40 AM

    Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. has announced that he will not seek reelection for a fourth term in office, which would begin January 2022.

    ____

    Cy Vance announced Friday he would not seek another term as Manhattan District Attorney, a position he used to prosecute Harvey Weinstein and investigate former President Donald Trump. Vance is departing this December after more than a decade atop one of the most prominent and powerful prosecutors’ offices in the country. – nbc.com

    I mentioned that in the post, DCSCA.

    I can’t give you much of a prediction of whether charges will be filed, and anyone who claims they can is blowing smoke. We learn in the article that Vance is not running for re-election, and will be out of office after December, so he’s not doing this to keep himself in power.

    Remember?

    Patterico (e349ce)

  44. Dustin may have bigger fish to fry even sooner:

    https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/12/matthew-mcconaughey-considering-run-texas-governor-475507

    urbanleftbehind (2e6e9b)

  45. Don’t let him live rent free in your head.

    Like Reagan lives in yours?

    You have a point, but as our host said, it’s banana republic stuff to let the guilty go free because they were the political leader.

    ULB, I hope that doesn’t happen. Sigh.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  46. @43. Thing is, P, he’s been chased down the canyons of NYC for decades and nobody locally nails him. And if the Congress of the United States couldn’t tag him out, he’s just going to outrun everything lesser until he drops dead.

    There certainly is a justice due him to be sure– but it may not be administered through the legal system. Make a mental list of what would be genuine justice; hair loss? A stroke robbing him of speech? Or simply starving him of an notoriety. You can’t shame him and he will never repent.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  47. 2 Qanon members with front row seats at a rally suddenly tussling about one’s hands being in the other’s pocket would have been my idea of justice.

    urbanleftbehind (2e6e9b)

  48. @45. I’m not a conservative ideologue, Dustin, so ‘in case of emergency, break glass and shout Reagan’ doesn’t work w/me. But the flotsam of his era is the wreckage we’re swimming through today. THi stuff doesn’ jus hapen oernigt nor will it disappear as fast. The loyal opposition bitched about FDR for decades after he’d passed as well–so much so the Reagan minions tried to all but ]kill the Roosevelt dime. But then, Reagan voted for FDR… four times. 😉

    You have a point, but as our host said, it’s banana republic stuff to let the guilty go free because they were the political leader.

    It’s been going on for a long time; hence the ‘rule o law’ is really a joke to the citizenry and those who play games with it literally court jesters given how many people have seen so many get away with their crimes. If you dabbled in coke as much as Larry Kudlow did, you’d be in the slammer for years– not advising presidents nor hosting TV shows on Fox. Life is unfair. So is the justice system. I suppose you have to start somewhere tryin to cleanup the mess– but imprisoning a POTUS? No. They didn’t nail Nixon; but the dud peg many of his minions. They won’t nail Trump; but his minions apper to be slipping through the system.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  49. @44. Schwarzenegger ran and won. So did George Murphy… and Ronald you-know-who.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)


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