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Manhattan DA and ex-prosecutor trade barbs over decision not to prosecute Trump

Mark Pomerantz, who resigned in protest a year ago, says DA Alvin Bragg should've brought charges. Bragg says the case was not ready and the investigation is ongoing.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference on June 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
The probe focused on whether Trump had manipulated the stated worth of his assets to win loans and tax breaks.Mark Humphrey / AP file

In a new book released Tuesday, the man who led the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump's alleged financial crimes says that the case is strong and that DA Alvin Bragg should have filed charges against the former president.

“He [Bragg] failed to recognize that the case had to be brought to vindicate the rule of law, and to demonstrate to the public that no one can hold himself above the law,” writes Mark Pomerantz in “People vs. Donald Trump.”

Asked about Pomerantz’s book on Tuesday, Bragg told reporters: “We have an active ongoing investigation so I’m constrained from what I can say. … But here’s what I can say. … I bring hard cases when they are ready. … I came to the same conclusion that multiple senior prosecutors in my office independently came to, and that was that Mark Pomerantz’s case simply was not ready.”

Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, was hired as a special assistant district attorney by Cy Vance, Bragg's predecessor as Manhattan DA, in December 2020 to work on the Trump case, given his previous experience in white collar and complex financial cases. As NBC News has previously reported, Pomerantz was directly involved in interviewing potential witnesses. 

The probe focused on whether Trump had manipulated the stated worth of his assets to win loans and tax breaks. Pomerantz wanted to charge Trump with falsifying business records and other crimes related to the Stormy Daniels hush money payments and exaggeration of his net worth, and says in his book that he had Vance’s approval.

Bragg succeeded Vance as district attorney in January 2022. Two people familiar with the matter told NBC News that Bragg and several career prosecutors soon had concerns about the case Pomerantz was building, including his interpretation of the law and a lack of key facts in memos about the potential indictment. The people familiar with the matter said four prosecutors left the team investigating Trump over the way Pomerantz was running it.

The sources said Pomerantz did not provide Bragg with a prosecution memo or an order of proof, a list of claims that needed to be proved to make the case, when Bragg took office. They said the Pomerantz team ultimately produced an order of proof when Bragg asked for one. 

Career prosecutors at the Manhattan office also felt distanced from Pomerantz and his team of outside hired attorneys, the people said. They said some declined to join the team because of concerns about Pomerantz’s leadership and investigative process.

The sources said that the Manhattan office’s appellate attorneys — tasked with assessing indictments and cases for any potential challenges in court — had been left out of the process as Pomerantz’s team had pushed for prosecution. 

Two people familiar with the case said they fear the book’s publication would give Trump’s lawyers leverage in any court challenge should the DA’s office ever choose to indict him.

The book also drew criticism from the District Attorneys Association of New York, which said in a statement that “a former prosecutor speaking out during an ongoing criminal investigation, that he was a part of, is unfortunate and unprecedented.”

“By writing and releasing a book in the midst of an ongoing case, the author is upending the norms and ethics of prosecutorial conduct.”

Bragg said Tuesday that he hadn’t read the book, “but I continue to be concerned that it could jeopardize or undermine our ongoing investigation.”

Pomerantz left his post in February 2022, saying in his resignation letter to Bragg: “I believe that your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and on the existing record, is misguided and completely contrary to the public interest.”

Pomerantz told NBC News on Tuesday that he was surprised to hear that some prosecutors did not want to work on his team, and that his team had given the DA’s office sufficient memos and briefings.

“We had extensive meetings on the facts and the law,” Pomerantz said. “I think the DA was briefed about the facts and the law. If he had any concern about receiving any additional analysis it would have been supplied to him.” 

Though he notes in his book that he was aware of concern about whether the charges against Trump were properly framed, he said he continues to believe they were, and that the reasoning was “discussed and documented in memos that went to the incoming team. … We were pretty confident that by alleging false business records, and we had a potpourri of examples to choose, we thought we had a broad range of documents that were falsified.”

Pomerantz said he does not want to engage in a  public dispute with the DA’s office and hopes the public can focus on Trump’s conduct as described in his book.

The Manhattan DA’s office said in a statement that a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement signed by Pomerantz in December 2020 has no expiration date. The office also says they requested a copy of the book in advance from the book’s publisher but did not receive one. 

Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and in December the Trump Organization was convicted of 17 felonies, including tax fraud, and fined $1.7 million. The case was initiated and charged by the Manhattan DA’s office under Vance. 

Trump has not been charged with any crime and has denied all wrongdoing. 

Carey Dunne, a former member of the Manhattan DA’s office who was brought back to argue successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court that the office should get Trump’s tax returns, also resigned in February 2022.

When asked in an interview last month if he would discuss the details of his investigation into Trump and his resignation from the DA’s office along with Pomerantz, Dunne said: “It’s not something that I’m interested in just talking about today, and I don’t see the need. There is a fairly robust record already published about what we were doing and what we were investigating.”

Dunne and Pomerantz have joined with Michele Roberts, former executive director of the NBA Players Association, to form a pro bono law firm called the Free and Fair Litigation Group, to work on protecting voting rights and other democratic institutions.

In an interview with CNN before he took office in January 2022, Bragg praised Dunne and Pomerantz as “two very good lawyers” and said that he hoped they would stay on the case.

“I think it would be a disservice to Manhattan to lose them,” Bragg said.