NEW YORK – A top prosecutor says he has returned a $32,000 campaign contribution from a lawyer who represented the Trump Organization in a fraud investigation that was ultimately dropped.
Continue Reading Below
The probe stemmed from a civil lawsuit in which some condominium buyers at the Trump SoHo hotel accused Donald Trump's children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. of lying about how many units had been sold, saying half or more were in contract when sales were actually much slower.
The company said no laws were broken, but prosecutors in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. began investigating in 2010.
The probe was still active in 2012, when Donald Trump's personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz donated $25,000 to Vance's re-election campaign.
The New Yorker, ProPublica and public radio station WNYC reported Wednesday that four months after making the contribution Kasowitz met with Vance to discuss the case. Three months later, Vance halted the investigation.
Vance, a Democrat, said the fact that Kasowitz was a campaign supporter had no bearing on his decision.
Continue Reading Below
Records show that Vance returned the $25,000 donation from Kasowitz before their meeting, a step the prosecutor said was part of his policy of returning any money contributed by someone with a case before his office.
"I did not, at the time, believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed," Vance told reporters for the news organizations. "I had to make a call, and I made the call, and I think I made the right call."
A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Joan Vollero, said in a statement Wednesday that during the investigation the Trump SoHo condominium purchasers who initially claimed to have been defrauded "reversed course and took the position that the sellers had not committed any crime against them." The Trump Organization settled the civil lawsuit with the prospective buyers in 2011 by agreeing to refund their sales deposits.
Five months after the investigation ended, Kosowitz gave another $31,993 to Vance's campaign committee.
This time, Vance did not return the money. He told The New Yorker, ProPublica and WNYC that he no longer felt ethically constrained because the investigation was over.
After they asked about the second contribution, he said he planned to return that, too.
"I don't want the money to be a millstone around anybody's neck, including the office's," said Vance, who is up for re-election this fall but is unopposed.
Kasowitz told The New Yorker, ProPublica and WNYC that his donations to Vance had nothing to do with the Trump SoHo case.
"I donated to Cy Vance's campaign because I was and remain extremely impressed by him as a person of impeccable integrity, as a brilliant lawyer and as a public servant with creative ideas and tremendous ability," Kasowitz said. "I have never made a contribution to anyone's campaign, including Cy Vance's, as a quid-pro-quo for anything."