Report: Trump’s Accountant Had a Little Chat With a Grand Jury

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Since Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. began his criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s financial practices, experts have said that the prosecution will need to not only uncover a paper trail that points to a crime, but also find witnesses who can “bring the documents to life for a jury.” Obviously, it would be great if the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, would share what he knows, but despite being hit with more than a dozen charges in July, to which he has pleaded not guilty, he does not seem to be talking. But apparently, others are more than happy to!

The Washington Post reports that Donald Bender, who has worked for Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, for years, and helped prepare the former president’s taxes and the financial statements the Trump Organization used to court lenders, recently testified before a New York grand jury weighing fresh criminal charges. That’s a big deal not just because Bender “handled vast amounts of Trump’s financial information as an outside accountant,” but because, as the Post notes, New York law dictates that grand jury witnesses are automatically given immunity from prosecution, meaning the guy cannot be charged for the work he did for Trump and will thus, presumably, feel comfortable speaking freely. And Bender isn’t the only one who’s had a noteworthy chat of late.

In addition, in recent weeks prosecutors have interviewed Rosemary Vrablic, a former managing director at Deutsche Bank who arranged hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Trump, according to people familiar with the investigation. Vrablic’s interview was not before the grand jury. Instead, one person said, prosecutors pressed Vrablic about Trump’s role in dealings with the bank. The people who described these interviews spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

The appearances by Bender and Vrablic suggest prosecutors are seeking information about Trump’s finances from a small circle of outside partners who handled details of Trump’s taxes and real estate deals. Bender and Vrablic were never Trump’s employees, but they knew more about his company’s inner workings than many employees did. Prosecutors are investigating whether Trump’s company broke the law by giving widely different valuations for the same property at the same time. In some cases, for instance, the Trump Organization provided low valuations to property tax officials, while telling lenders that the same property was worth much more.

As The New York TimesDavid Enrich wrote last December after Vrablic handed in her resignation, Trump became a client of Vrablic’s at Deutsche Bank in 2011, which, given his propensity for defaulting on loans, was a major win for him, as most Wall Street banks didn’t want to touch him with a 1,000-foot pole. While Vrablic “championed the Trump relationship,” and loaned him over $300 million, senior executives “argued it was too risky to lend to Mr. Trump, given his history,” according to the Times. As the Trump Organization sought more and more money, Trump and his representatives gave Deutsche financial statements “that appeared to substantially overstate the value of some of his company’s real estate and other assets, according to current and former bank executives, as well as congressional testimony last year from Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.” In January, Deutsche Bank said it would no longer do business with Trump.

According to the Post, when Vrablic met with the D.A.’s office, prosecutors “asked her about Trump’s personal role in dealing with the bank.” A lawyer for Vrablic declined the Post’s request for comment. Bender may return for further testimony in the coming weeks. Prosecutors were given millions of pages of Trump-related documents from Mazars, Bender’s firm, following a legal battle that twice reached the Supreme Court. In February, Vance’s office obtained years of Trump’s tax records, a development Trump reacted to like a man who’s committed all manner of fraud.

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