2 main Manhattan DA candidates facing the Trump question
Whoever wins the race to be Manhattan’s next prosecutor will take charge of one of the most controversial and high-profile criminal investigations in the office’s history: the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his company .
Two of the top contenders in the Democratic primary, Alvin Bragg and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, have had previous contact with Mr. Trump’s administration – relationships that could become a problem if one of them becomes a district attorney.
Mr. Bragg, a former official in the New York attorney general’s office, frequently reminds voters that in his former job he sued Mr. Trump’s administration “over a hundred times.”
Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, who was previously general counsel for the Brooklyn District Attorney, spoke less of Mr. Trump. She only occasionally notes her involvement in a successful lawsuit against the Trump administration. And she hasn’t spoken publicly of a single interview with Trump administration officials for a federal judge post early in her tenure.
Mr Bragg and Ms Farhadian Weinstein are among eight Democratic candidates vying to replace Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney, who is not running for re-election. With less than a month to go to the primary, Mr. Trump continues to hover in the race.
Mr Vance’s office recently convened a grand jury that will hear evidence about Mr Trump and his company, according to a person with knowledge of the case – a sign the investigation may soon escalate.
Mr Bragg and Ms Farhadian Weinstein have raised more money than any of their opponents, and both say they have experience in suing to take over the office.
But each would also bring particular experiences to the Trump inquiry that the former president, based on his past actions, seems likely to use against them: Mr. Bragg’s history of legal conflict with Mr. Trump and the discussion. previously undisclosed Ms. Farhadian Weinstein on a judicial post with attorneys for the Trump administration.
Andrew Weissmann, former senior prosecutor for Robert S. Mueller III, the special advocate who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, said he expected Mr. Trump to target the next district attorney just as he attacked Mr. Mueller, whom the former president called a “real Never Trumper” and “totally in conflict. “
“It doesn’t matter who gets elected, he’s going to research the opposition, and assuming an indictment is filed or anything like that, he’s going to do what he did with the special advocate, “Weissmann said.
The constitution of a new grand jury, first reported by the Washington Post, follows years of investigation by Mr. Vance, who has focused on possible financial crimes within the Trump Organization, including tax and bank fraud.
Prosecutors were already using grand juries to issue subpoenas, obtain documents and hear testimony, but the new grand jury is expected to hear a series of witnesses in the coming months. There is no indication that the investigation has reached an advanced stage or that prosecutors have decided to press charges against Mr. Trump or his company.
Trump’s advisers have said he will attempt to challenge the motives of prosecutors investigating him. After the Post’s report was released, Trump called the investigation “purely political” and said “our prosecutors are politicized.”
It’s an attack he could wield on Mr. Bragg, who has repeatedly referred to his numerous lawsuits against Mr. Trump and his administration, referring to a period from 2017 to 2018 when he served as a senior official under the successive New York attorneys general. , Eric Schneiderman and Barbara D. Underwood.
One of the office’s most prominent lawsuits, filed in June 2018, accused the Donald J. Trump Foundation and the Trump family of what Ms. Underwood called a “shocking pattern of illegality” and ultimately led to disbandment of the foundation.
Mr. Bragg, at a Democratic Candidates Forum in December, cited the trial as one of the reasons he was qualified to oversee the district attorney’s Trump investigation.
“I have investigated Trump and his children and held them accountable for their misconduct with the Trump Foundation,” Mr. Bragg said. “I know how to follow the facts and hold those in power to account. “
Mr Bragg acknowledged that Mr Trump might seek to make a problem out of his own hands if he wins. When asked how he would deal with the former president’s accusations of bias, Mr Bragg said he was attentive to what he said publicly – and what he didn’t hadn’t said.
“It is a fact that I have sued Trump over a hundred times,” Bragg said. “I can’t change that fact, and neither can I. It was important work. It’s separate from anything the prosecutor’s office can look at now. “
A spokeswoman for Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, Jennifer Blatus, accused Mr. Bragg of attacking Mr. Trump “for political gain whenever he has the opportunity”, contrary to what Ms. Blatus called ‘”Judicious approach” to his candidate.
In an emailed statement, Ms. Farhadian Weinstein explained her reluctance to talk about a possible attack on her by Mr. Trump.
“I have repeatedly refused requests to discuss a hypothetical argument that a current subject of an investigation in the Manhattan DA’s office might make – this is the only appropriate approach for open cases including the next prosecutor will inherit, ”she said.
She also criticized Mr. Bragg for organize a fundraiser with Daniel S. Goldman, a former House attorney who worked on Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.
Ms. Farhadian Weinstein’s meeting with lawyers for the Trump administration regarding the judiciary took place in 2017, at the start of the Trump administration.
A friend of Ms Farhadian Weinstein, Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, suggested her as a candidate for a district court judge to Avi Berkowitz, then Jared Kushner’s special assistant, Mr. Feldman. He did it on his own, he said. (Two years later, in 2019, Mr. Feldman testified against Mr. Trump in his first impeachment hearing.)
Ms Farhadian Weinstein, who had previously applied for a judge’s post under President Barack Obama’s administration, received an out of the blue phone call from the Trump administration, she told an associate. It is not uncommon for lawyers with judicial aspirations to seek judicial office regardless of political party – Ms Farhadian Weinstein has been registered as both an independent and a Democrat in recent years – and she attended the meeting. at the Eisenhower Executive Office building in the White House. land.
But the meeting, which included attorneys John Bash and Gregory G. Katsas of the White House office of the council, turned heated during a disagreement over constitutional law, the associate said, and the conversation never ends. gone further.
A former administration official who was familiar with the meeting did not recall that it had been described as impassioned and called it a “superficial” interview organized to appease the former president’s son-in-law.
A person close to Mr Kushner said that although Mr Kushner would periodically pass on the recommendations people made to the judges to the White House office of the council, he has no recollection of a discussion about Ms Farhadian Weinstein. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump was personally aware of Ms. Farhadian Weinstein’s interest in a judge’s post or her trip to meet with White House lawyers.
While Ms Farhadian Weinstein’s interview for a judge’s post in 2017 could serve as fodder for political attacks by the former president if she became a district attorney, legal experts said that did not raise any ethical issues and that nor would she demand that she recuse herself from the office’s investigation into Mr. Trump and his organization.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good government advocacy group, said in an interview that although Ms. Farhadian Weinstein would not have been forced to publicly disclose the meeting in the district attorney’s race, the ‘information was’ certainly relevant to the job she is applying for.
“This is information voters will want to take into account, and it is up to them to decide how it counts in their ultimate choice,” Lerner said.
William K. Rashbaum and Benjamin protests contributed to the reports and Susan Beachy contributed to the research.