New York prosecutors had investigated Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. for allegedly giving false information to prospective buyers of condo units in their troubled Trump SoHo development, according to a joint investigation out Wednesday from ProPublica, WNYC and The New Yorker.
While the report found prosecutors gathered significant evidence for a criminal case, no indictment ever came down against the siblings. As the report revealed, Mark Kasowitz, one of Trump’s longtime personal attorneys who had donated thousands of dollars to the reelection campaign of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, asked Vance to drop the investigation. The district attorney ultimately did so, overruling his own prosecutors.
The existence of a criminal investigation into the Trump SoHo project was first reported by the New York Times last year. Buyers were angry that the Trump family had publicly insisted that the development was selling units like hotcakes, when it actually was hobbled by a bursting real estate bubble, an odd zoning situation and press reports on the involvement of a Trump associate with a felony record: Felix Sater.
The Trump Organization ultimately settled a civil suit related to the development in 2011, admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to refund much of the deposits, as the Times reported.
But the new collaborative reporting project is the first to reveal that prosecutors were focused on Trump’s eldest children; that they had email evidence; and that Kasowitz may have had a hand in how the case shook out.
The evidence accumulated by Vance’s team included emails in which the Trump siblings discussed how to coordinate misleading information they would provide to people interested in their condo units, according to the report. Trump Jr. told a broker in one message that no one would ever find out about those false statements because the deception was kept strictly within the Trump Organization, according to a person who saw the email.
One of the individuals who viewed the emails told reporters that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales” and that “they knew it was wrong.”
The investigation into the siblings originated in the D.A.’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau in 2010. It dragged on through 2012, with Trump Organization attorneys reportedly arguing that the siblings’ exaggerations did not amount to criminal misconduct.
Kasowitz donated $25,000 to Vance’s reelection campaign in January 2012, and Vance returned that money so as not to accept funds from a donor with a case before his office, according to the report. Shortly after Vance returned his donation, Kasowitz met with the district attorney in May to repeat the defense’s arguments that there’d been no wrongdoing; Vance dropped the case three months afterward, and Kasowitz subsequently donated and helped raise an additional $50,000 for Vance’s campaign.
Both men denied to the reporters that there was anything improper about how the case played out.
Read the full report here.