NEW YORK — Two prosecutors heading the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe into Donald Trump’s business dealings have resigned from their positions — frustrated that after their former boss authorized them to seek an indictment against the former president, the new district attorney appeared uninterested, multiple people familiar with the situation said.
Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), who declined to seek reelection as district attorney, had told a team led by seasoned litigators Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz to go to a grand jury to begin the process of securing a case against Trump, two people familiar with the situation said. Vance concluded there was enough evidence after a three-year probe to obtain an indictment and conviction, the people said.
The final decision, however, would fall to Vance’s successor, Alvin Bragg (D), who was sworn into office Jan. 1.
To Dunne and Pomerantz, the people familiar with the situation said, Bragg appeared not to be focused on the case, which centers on whether Trump and his business inflated the value of their assets to secure more favorable loans, insurance and tax rates.
One person familiar with the situation said the new prosecutor took weeks to read memos Dunne and Pomerantz had prepared and didn’t meet with them for some time, even though the grand jury’s term was set to expire this spring. When they did meet, Bragg didn’t seem keenly interested, said this person, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations in an ongoing investigation.
Due to the inactivity, members of the grand jury were instructed to stay home on days they were slated to serve, according to one of the people with knowledge of the developments.
A spokeswoman for Bragg on Wednesday confirmed the resignations of Dunne and Pomerantz, who were overseeing a team of about 25 lawyers, paralegals and analysts, but declined to say why they left.
“We are grateful for their service,” said Bragg’s spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, adding that the investigation into Trump and his business practices “is ongoing.”
On Thursday, she said it was “not true” that Bragg was not interested in the probe.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who has an active, parallel civil probe into Trump’s business practices, may proceed alone with a civil lawsuit, a person familiar with the situation said. But James’s office also has partnered with Bragg in the criminal investigation. On Wednesday, James spokeswoman Delaney Kempner said the joint criminal inquiry “is ongoing and there is a robust team in place that is working on it.”
Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor who was working on the Trump case without taking a salary, confirmed his departure but declined to comment further. Dunne, who served as Vance’s general counsel, could not be reached for comment. Vance, who is now in private practice, declined to comment on the resignations, which were first reported by the New York Times.
Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. One member of Trump’s legal team, Ron Fischetti, predicted Wednesday that the departure of the two prosecutors “will mean the district attorney’s investigation will come to a halt.”
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer representing Trump Organization in the criminal matter, declined to comment. Trump had not issued a statement by Wednesday evening.
Should the criminal case in Manhattan yield no indictment of Trump, it would not be the end of his legal woes. In addition to James’s civil inquiry and other pending civil claims, a prosecutor in Georgia is weighing whether Trump committed crimes in pressuring state election officials to overturn the results of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. The Westchester County district attorney in suburban New York is also looking into Trump’s business and has subpoenaed records related to one of Trump’s golf clubs there.
In the Manhattan probe, Vance’s administration did not rush to seek an indictment by the end of 2021, believing that Bragg — who would inherit the case — should handle the conclusion of the grand jury process, one of the people familiar with Vance’s thinking said.
Dunne and Pomerantz expected the support for an indictment would transfer to Bragg’s administration, the person said.
Another person briefed on the case said Bragg and James had a good relationship as they pursued their joint investigation. But a second person with knowledge of the situation said James’s office wanted to take a more aggressive approach at times.
The investigation by the district attorney’s office was in a holding pattern for at least a month after Bragg failed to communicate a sense of direction, according to a different person with knowledge of the situation. Dunne and Pomerantz were growing increasingly frustrated, this person said.
Since taking office in early January, Bragg has been largely consumed with discussions, meetings and public appearances over his controversial “Day One” memo, which dictated a set of lenient policies on charging decisions and bail. He drew pushback from officials and residents at a time when violent crime is intensifying — leading to a lengthy effort to clarify to his staff and the public what the memo meant.
The district attorney’s investigation of Trump’s business practices started in 2019 and included a protracted legal battle that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that Trump’s personal and business tax returns must be turned over, in compliance with a subpoena to his accounting firm, Mazars USA.
In July, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were indicted in a 15-year tax fraud case by a previous grand jury. Charges included scheme to defraud, conspiracy and related counts, with Weisselberg also charged with grand larceny.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization and Weisselberg recently filed motions asking New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to dismiss charges before the case goes to trial, which could happen in August or September. The motions said Weisselberg was simply collateral damage in the quest by two elected Democrats, Vance and James, to take down the former president.
Weisselberg’s attorneys also argued in the 140-page filing that the case is marred by its reliance on Michael Cohen for information. Cohen, a former Trump attorney who is now an outspoken critic, pleaded guilty in federal court to campaign finance violations and to lying to Congress in 2018. He served prison time for the crimes.
Weisselberg was given immunity for his cooperation in the New York federal investigation that resulted in charges against Cohen. Weisselberg’s attorneys have also argued that the district attorney’s case stemmed from that probe and the immunity he got in federal court should extend to the state court matter.
Bragg generally declined to discuss his plans for the Trump case on the campaign trail last year, saying it would be improper for him to do so without having access to the evidence. He highlighted, however, civil investigations into Trump’s business dealings that he was involved in previously as a top lawyer at the attorney general’s office.
He remained tight-lipped about the criminal inquiry after taking office, as is customary for a prosecutor with regard to an open investigation.
James, in contrast, repeatedly promised in public appearances to examine potential illegal activity in Trump’s business dealings. She has been criticized by Trump and his allies for those pledges.
Since joining the district attorney’s criminal case, James has declined to speak publicly about it. But she has released a wealth of public information about her civil case, which covers much of the same subject matter. Last week, a New York Supreme Court justice ordered Trump and two of his adult children — Ivanka and Donald Jr. — to sit for sworn testimony in the civil case in coming weeks.
The Trump family is expected to appeal that ruling, likely to argue, among other things, that James could unfairly use what they say against them in the criminal case.
Pomerantz was still interviewing witnesses for that probe as recently as this month. On Feb. 2, he spoke for an hour with Jonathan Greenberg, a former Forbes magazine reporter who for several years compiled the magazine’s list of the nation’s richest people — a list that Trump was very eager to be on.
It was for those stories that Trump called Greenberg pretending to be “John Barron,” a public relations representative for the developer. In their Feb. 2 call, Greenberg said, Pomerantz “let me know he was getting ready to present his best case” to his superiors.
“He said he was in the final round and they needed to prove intent,” Greenberg recalled in an interview Wednesday. “He said, ‘We need to prove that Trump wasn’t just drinking his own Kool-Aid’” when his company told lenders that he had assets that were worth far more than what he actually owned.
Greenberg said the prosecutor told him that the tricky part of getting a green light to move ahead with a prosecution of Trump was finding evidence that proved that Trump “wasn’t just blowing smoke as a marketing tactic, but was lying and knowing that he was lying.”
Dawsey reported from Washington. Marc Fisher contributed to this report.