New York prosecutors questioned over Chicago’s Trump Tower: documents

The New York attorney, investigating possible financial irregularities within former President Donald Trump’s businesses, questioned Cook County officials about property records involving the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Between September and November last year, a representative from the Bureau of Major Economic Crimes of the New York District Attorney’s Office exchanged emails with the Cook County Registrar inquiring into obtaining records associated with Trump’s tower here, according to documents obtained exclusively by WBEZ.

The documents indicate that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation into Trump’s taxes and possible financial wrongdoing at his companies could go, at least in part, through Chicago.

A spokesperson for Vance declined to comment on the email exchange, which was not previously reported.

An email from Vance’s office on September 10, 2020 suggests that New York prosecutors were hoping to get the files from the Trump building instead of issuing a subpoena, which may require the participation of an Illinois judge being given that this particular survey is state based.

Documents obtained by WBEZ as part of an open registration application show that Daniel Kenny, a financial intelligence analyst at Vance, applied for a specific property identification number in the Trump building, if online registrations could be downloaded and “would these be the same recordings I would receive if we sent you a summons?”

“In other words, are there other records that the Registrar of Records keeps for this property that are not available for download?” he wrote to the recorder’s office.

The Registrar’s Chief Legal Advisor, Khang P. Trinh, subsequently responded that all property records, except those filed before 1985 and land drawings known as dishes, could be viewed in line.

The Registrar’s Office is a clearinghouse for mortgage records, loan remission documents and deeds for 1.8 million plots in Cook County.

The property identification number quoted in Kenny’s email dates back to a particular condominium in the Trump building, but WBEZ could not find any connection between its owner and the ex-president, his family or any another person affiliated with the Trump organization.

The registrar’s office has not received a summons from the New York district attorney’s office, according to a request for open cases.

The documents associated with this plot and dozens more in the skyscraper are listed on some of the major financing documents related to the construction loans that Trump’s company initially took out that appear to be the subject of the attention of the New York attorney.

Democratic Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, who now oversees duties previously assumed by the county clerk, said her office has fully cooperated with Vance’s office and said the prosecutor’s interest in the Trump property in Chicago seemed entirely plausible given his interest in Trump’s financial affairs.

“They’re good at turning rocks, okay?” she told WBEZ. “And the fact that they’re in Chicago turning rocks, I’m not surprised, not at all surprised. Like I said, we’ll see where it goes or if it goes anywhere. But I’m not surprised at what I see and hear about what’s going on in the New York District Attorney’s Office, but there is clearly smoke.

Earlier this month, CNN reported that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena to an investment firm that provided the Trump organization with $ 130 million in funding for the construction of the luxury hotel and condominium tower on the Chicago River. The company subsequently waived $ 100 million of this loan.

The network reported that Vance’s office was investigating whether Trump and the Trump organization correctly recorded this debt forgiveness in federal tax returns, and whether they paid taxes that might have been owed.

Vance’s investigation gained momentum last October when a federal appeals court ruled that the Manhattan prosecutor could access Trump’s personal tax returns. Vance eventually got his hands on these deposits in February, on the same day, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Trump to delay their surrender.

The Trump organization did not respond to WBEZ questions about this unreported development in Vance’s investigation involving Chicago. No one has been charged in connection with the New York investigation.

A former federal prosecutor told WBEZ that the prosecutor’s interaction with Cook County last fall could be an important signal about the ongoing case against the ex-president and that Vance’s office is pressed for as much information as possible before the district attorney leaves. office later this year.

“What he’s saying is that they think Trump Tower is potentially part of their investigation, that these files are going to reveal information that might be of use to them and that might actually help them establish facts that can make move their case forward in New York, ”said Renato Mariotti, former assistant US attorney in Chicago and cable legal affairs analyst.

“If it ends up spreading, what we might end up seeing is evidence that Trump Tower Chicago was shown in a courtroom in Manhattan,” Mariotti said.

The circumstances behind the processing of loans to build Trump’s Chicago property are also known to be of interest to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Last August, at court filings in New York, his office raised similar questions about whether the debt forgiveness related to the Trump property in Chicago was properly reflected as taxable income on the taxes of the former president.

Here in Chicago, some city council members have their own vested interests in the Trump building – particularly the garish Trump signage that exists on the skyscraper by the river. They are trying to tie his fate to possible legal action surrounding Trump over his role in inciting the fatal Jan.6 insurgency on the U.S. Capitol.

At the end of January, 18 aldermen registered as sponsors of the measured this would allow the city to withdraw a flagging permit if the applicant or “anyone controlling the applicant … has been convicted in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding of treason, sedition or subversive activity”.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.

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