NEW YORK -- A new grand jury has been formed by New York prosecutors to hear evidence regarding the probe into former President Donald Trump's business dealings. The term of the existing panel was due to expire, a source familiar with the matter said to The Associated Press on Thursday.
This development comes as Manhattan's district attorney's office considers whether to pursue additional indictments in a case which has already led to tax fraud charges against Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Trump is still under investigation. This is despite the fact that District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. fought for access to Republican tax records over a long period of time.
The person spoke only under condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to speak publicly. The Washington Post first reported the news about the new grand jury.
The Manhattan DA's office declined to comment. A message was left for comment by a Trump Organization lawyer.
Vance's investigators and Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, have spent over two years investigating whether the Trump Organization deceived banks or tax officials regarding the company's value. They investigated whether they inflated the assets to obtain favorable loan terms or minimized them to get tax savings.
James' office issued subpoenas in November 2019 to local governments as part of a continuing civil probe. These records included records about Trump's North Manhattan estate, Seven Springs, and the tax benefit Trump received by donating land to a conservation trust. Vance issued subpoenas to local governments in November 2019 for many of the same records.
James' office also has been looking into similar issues regarding a Trump office building, Chicago hotel and Los Angeles golf course. Her office won a number of court rulings that forced Trump's company, and the law firm it hired, to turn over vast amounts of records.
The New York Times reported that Mimi Rocah, Westchester District Attorney, had opened an investigation into whether officials were misled by Trump Organization to reduce taxes on a golf course.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty in the criminal case to charges that he received more than $1.7million in off-the books compensation. This includes apartment rent, car payments, and school tuition. Trump's company was also indicted in the case. Prosecutors described it as a "sweeping, audacious" tax fraud scheme.
The indictment states that the Trump Organization and Weisselberg (74), conspired to cheat tax authorities from 2005 to this year by paying senior executives out of the books through lucrative fringe benefits and other means. Weisselberg was the only one accused of defrauding federal, state, and local governments of more than $900,000.
Trump was not charged with any wrongdoing. However, prosecutors pointed out that he signed certain checks in the case.
Two Trump Organization executives have testified before the grand jury hearing evidence in Manhattan's case. New York law grants grand jury witnesses immunity. They cannot be prosecuted for the conduct they testify to.
Matthew Calamari Jr. is one of the Trump executives who was granted immunity to testify before a grand jury. He is Matthew Calamari Jr. Jeffrey McConney (senior vice president and controller) was subpoenaed in spring to testify and he appeared before the panel in September.
Bryan Scarlatos, a Weisselberg lawyer, told a judge at a September hearing that he had "strong reasons to believe" that more indictments were being brought in to the case.
In the spring, the grand jury that indicted Trump Organization and Weisselberg was reconstituted for a six month term. Six months will be required for the new grand jury to meet, which overlaps Alvin Bragg’s tenure as district attorney.
Bragg, a Democrat won Tuesday's election. He will replace Vance in January.
Bragg was a deputy attorney general for New York in 2018. He oversaw a lawsuit that resulted in Trump's charitable foundation being closed. The lawsuit was brought by allegations that Trump used the nonprofit to promote his business and political interests.
Bragg stated that he was able to "follow the facts wherever they lead" in the Trump criminal investigation, during an interview before his election.
Bragg stated, "I recall the moment I sat down at the table with the attorney General and decided to file the case. The ultimate question was, "is this a matter we would file if it was someone else?"
"And we came up with the conclusion that this type of conduct was worthy of an action by the attorney general." He said that he would take the same approach and philosophy to the D.A.'s Office.