Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, two senior prosecutors on the team, resigned last month – one day after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg informed them that he was not prepared to move forward with criminal charges. The resignations followed weeks of internal debate and discussion over the strength of the evidence against Trump and whether it could pass the hurdle of proving a crime.
Prosecutors have been investigating Trump and the Trump Organization and whether they misled lenders, insurers, and others by providing them false or misleading financial statements about the value of properties.
The abrupt resignations last month of the top prosecutors has cast the future of the investigation into doubt as a special grand jury convened last year is set to expire at the end of April.
Bragg’s office has reiterated that the investigation, which was started by Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance Jr., is ongoing. Susan Hoffinger, an experienced attorney, has been appointed to lead the investigative team.
The New York Times first reported that the resignations followed a decision by Bragg to stop presenting evidence to the grand jury.
The strength of the evidence against Trump has been debated by attorneys in the office for months, CNN has reported. Some prosecutors, including Dunne and Pomerantz, believed there was sufficient evidence to charge, while others, including some career prosecutors, were skeptical that they could win a conviction at trial, in part because of the difficulty in proving criminal intent, people familiar with the matter said. On the one hand, some prosecutors believed Trump spoke with a lot of hyperbole, but it was not clear whether they could show he acted with intent to defraud.
Prosecutors also did not have a victim who lost money from Trump’s misstatements, people familiar said, a matter that might give a jury a break. Still some attorneys strongly believed that Trump should be held accountable and that the case was worth bringing even if they might lose, the people said.
Multiple factors were at play, including the lack of a key Trump Organization insider cooperating with the investigation who, at trial, could walk the jury through the evidence, these people said. The possible value of using Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney who in testimony before Congress alleged Trump inflated and devalued the worth of assets to his advantage, was also discussed with Bragg’s team, the people said. Cohen pleaded guilty to nine criminal charges, including lying to Congress. While he was once close to Trump, his conviction and public statements critical of Trump would give the defense ammunition to aim to discredit him. The Times first reported that Cohen’s potential role as a witness factored into Bragg’s decision.
In recent weeks, Bragg was advised that the attorneys on the investigative team believed they gathered enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump committed crimes, a person familiar with the matter said.
But by February 22, Bragg informed the prosecution team that he was not prepared to authorize charges against the former President, the person said. The following day, Pomerantz and Dunne resigned. Bragg’s office has maintained that the investigation is ongoing. They have added attorneys to the team.