Manhattan DA ignores questions regarding concern over donations

Reports scrutinize campaign contributions to Cyrus Vance from associates of the Trumps and Harvey Weinstein, both linked to cases that were dropped

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R Vance Jr, refused on Saturday to answer questions about contributions to his re-election campaign and decisions to quash a fraud investigation involving Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr and not to prosecute the movie producer Harvey Weinstein over an alleged groping incident.

Vance, who will be up for re-election in November, was a speaker at a pro-gun control event in Union Square in New York City, held in the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting. Asked about the campaign contributions, he offered no comment and swiftly left the event.

On Wednesday, ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker reported that between 2010 and 2012, prosecutors attempted to build a case against the two Trump siblings for allegedly “misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development”.

Before meeting Vance about the case in May 2012, the report said, Donald Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the DA’s re-election campaign. Vance returned the donation, according to what he said was standard practice when a donor has a case before his office.

Three months later, the case was dropped. Vance told the three media outlets that was the “right call”, as he “did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed”.

Subsequent donations to Vance’s campaign by Kasowitz and organised through him, and in excess of $50,000, were accepted. Speaking to ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker, Vance said he would return that money. He also said Kasowitz “had no influence, and his contributions had no influence whatsoever on my decision-making in the case”.

On Thursday, the International Business Times (IBT) reported that David Boies, a prominent defense attorney who has represented Weinstein’s company, though was not doing so at the time of the alleged groping incident, donated $10,000 in 2015. The donation was made after Vance’s office decided not to prosecute in the case of Ambra Battilana, an Italian model who alleged Weinstein groped her and put his hand up her skirt.

Weinstein was this week the subject of a New York Times report that alleged a pattern of sexual harassment, which the 65-year-old producer has disputed.

In Union Square on Saturday a spokeswoman, Joan Vollero, said: “There was not a single donation from Weinstein to Cy Vance, and nor a single donation from his attorney on the criminal matter to Cy Vance.”

In a statement emailed to the Guardian later, Vollero described the IBT story as “completely false”.

A spokesman for Boies’ law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, said in a statement to the IBT: “David Boies has been a supporter of the District Attorney since long before 2015, including before he was first elected, and has never spoken to him about Harvey Weinstein.”

Regarding the Trump SoHo case, Vollero said in her emailed statement: “This was a two-year investigation that never produced sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution. During the investigation, the luxury apartment purchasers reversed course and took the position that the sellers had not committed any crime against them. No outside attorney influenced any decision in this matter.”

The event in Union Square was organised as an attempt to pressure the House speaker, Paul Ryan, not to allow votes on bills designed to expand concealed carry rights and eliminate restrictions on silencers. Another speaker, the Democratic New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, told the Guardian she was optimistic both pieces of legislation would be rejected.

“The outrage from the American people over this incident is so overwhelming,” she said of the Las Vegas shooting, in which 58 people were killed and nearly 500 injured. “It’s the worst modern massacre of innocent people enjoying a festival.

“These guns should not be permitted, this booster that turns a gun into a machine gun should be outlawed. If they pass a silencer bill, they’ll be able to kill even more people. We need to be thinking about how to save lives.”

Maloney said DA Vance and other New York law enforcement officials were “apoplectic” over the concealed carry proposals that would “allow the country’s loosest gun laws to prevail in the most populous city in the country”.

“That will just make life more dangerous,” she said, adding: “More people will die.”


Edward Helmore in New York

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