NEW YORK — Refuting suggestions that he’s lost interest in going after Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday a criminal investigation into the former president and his business practices is continuing “without fear or favor” despite a recent shakeup in the probe’s leadership.
In a rare public statement, Bragg denied that the three-year investigation was winding down or that a grand jury term expiring this month would impede his office’s ability to bring charges.
Citing secrecy rules, the district attorney said he couldn’t discuss details of the probe but pledged to publicly disclose findings when it’s over.
“In recent weeks, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been repeatedly asked whether our investigation concerning former President Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, and its leadership is continuing,” Bragg wrote. “It is.”
The Democrat’s affirmation of the investigation was part of a double dose of bad legal news for Trump on Thursday.
It came shortly after the New York attorney general’s office asked a judge to hold Trump in contempt of court and fine him $10,000 per day for not complying with a March 31 deadline to turn over documents in a parallel civil investigation.
Trump is appealing a subpoena for his testimony in that investigation, but not one requiring him to provide documents.
“The judge’s order was crystal clear: Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”
A message seeking comment was left with Trump’s lawyer.
Bragg’s statement, emailed to reporters and posted on social media, marked the district attorney’s first public comment on the closely watched Trump investigation since the two top deputies who had been leading it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned Feb. 23 in a dispute over the direction of the case.
Pomerantz, a former mafia prosecutor brought out of private practice last year to lead the Trump criminal probe, wrote in his resignation letter that he believed Trump is “guilty of numerous felony violations” but that Bragg, who inherited the probe when he took office in January, had decided not to pursue charges.
Pomerantz said in the letter, published last month by The New York Times, that there was “evidence sufficient to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of allegations he falsified financial statements to secure loans and burnish his image as a wealthy businessman.
“I believe that your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and on the existing record, is misguided and completely contrary to the public interest,” Pomerantz wrote. “I therefore cannot continue in my current position.”
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Bragg’s silence after the resignations and the March 23 publication of Pomerantz’s letter gave rise to a narrative that he was no longer interested in pursuing Trump and that the investigation was effectively dead.
After Pomerantz and Dunne left the D.A.’s office, Trump lawyer Robert Fischetti told the Associated Press: “I’m a very happy man. In my opinion, this investigation is over.”
Pomerantz and Dunne started on the probe under former District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and Bragg asked them to stay when he took office. Pomerantz wrote that Vance had directed them to present evidence to a grand jury and seek an indictment of Trump and other defendants “as soon as reasonably possible,” but Bragg reached a different conclusion after reviewing the evidence.
Both Vance and Bragg are Democrats. No former president has ever been charged with a crime.
In his statement Thursday, Bragg tried to wrest back the narrative, putting Trump and his associates on notice that they shouldn’t rest easy while also attempting to reassure supporters who backed him in part because he pledged to continue investigating the former president, a Republican.
Bragg said that a team of “dedicated, experienced career prosecutors” is working on the investigation, led by the chief of his Investigation Division, Susan Hoffinger, and that they are “going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored.”
“In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, we are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor,” Bragg said.
Trump has called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
So far, the three-year investigation has resulted only in tax fraud charges against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg relating to lucrative fringe benefits such as rent, car payments and school tuition. They have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg’s lawyers filed court papers in February asking a judge to throw out his case, arguing that prosecutors targeted him as punishment because he wouldn’t flip on the former president.
Trump has cited potential peril from the criminal case as he appeals a ruling requiring him to answer questions under oath in a parallel civil investigation being led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Trump’s lawyers contend that James, who assigned two lawyers to work on the criminal case, is using the guise of a civil deposition to get around a state law barring prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without giving them immunity.
James, a Democrat, has said her investigation uncovered evidence that Trump may have misstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers on financial statements for more than a decade — a topic that has also been part of the criminal investigation.
Bragg said in his statement that “high-profile, complex investigations have been trademarks” of his professional career, including as a top deputy to New York’s attorney general in 2018 overseeing a lawsuit that led to the closure of Trump’s charitable foundation over allegations that he used the nonprofit to further his political and business interests.
“These experiences shape my approach and the investigative steps that the team is hard at work on,” Bragg wrote. “Prosecutors fulfilling their duties cannot and do not bring only cases that are ‘slam dunks.’ To the contrary, every case must be brought for the right reason – namely that justice demands it. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career, regardless of how easy or tough a case might be.”
A grand jury convened last fall in the Trump investigation hasn’t been hearing evidence regularly for several months and its term is expected to run out in the coming weeks, but Bragg said there are grand juries sitting in Manhattan all the time and “there is no magic at all to any previously reported dates.”
“In the meantime, we will not be discussing our investigative steps. Nor will we be discussing grand jury matters.” Bragg wrote. “In short, as we have previously said, the investigation continues.”
By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press