Here’s what prosecutors could learn from Trump’s tax records after court decision

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. fought for a year and a half to get access to former President Donald Trump’s tax records.

Now, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he will soon have them. But what will that mean for the Democrat’s investigation into Trump’s business affairs?

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Former prosecutors say the trove of records could give investigators new tools to determine whether Trump lied to lenders or tax officials, before or after he took office.

“Prosecutors look for discrepancies in paperwork. For example, if Trump told the IRS he’s broke and lenders that he’s rich that’s just the type of discrepancy they could build a case around,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who worked on a wide range of white collar cases as Vance’s chief of asset forfeiture.

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“These documents are a very important piece of the jigsaw puzzle,” Levin said.

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Whether Trump’s records will contain evidence of a crime is uncertain. The former president has argued for years that he broke no laws and has been unfairly targeted by Democrats for political reasons.

Here is a look at where the tax records might be helpful, and where they might not help much, in the district attorney’s investigation:

More than just returns

Trump went to extraordinary lengths to keep his federal income tax returns from becoming public, but those aren’t the only valuable documents included in this haul.

Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, is supposed to turn over not only the final versions of Trump’s tax returns, but also draft versions of those returns and “any and all statements of financial condition, annual statements, periodic financial reports, and independent auditors’ reports” held by the company.

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That could give state prosecutors an “open book” into Trump’s finances, said Adam D. Citron, a former state prosecutor and partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. “It’s really the kitchen sink.”

Examining those other documents could be key to determining whether Trump or his companies gave tax authorities different information about his income than they presented to other officials, like banks and business partners.

Hush money

When the district attorney’s investigation first began, one of the initial subpoenas sent to the Trump Organization asked for information about payments Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to women who had claimed to have had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump.

Cohen has said Trump’s company later reimbursed him for one of those payments, to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, disguising it in the form of a legal fees.

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It isn’t clear, though, whether Trump’s tax records will add much to that part of the probe. The New York Times, which obtained years of Trump’s tax data, wrote that it contained “no new revelations” about the payment to Daniels and didn’t include any itemized payments to Cohen.

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Tax breaks

The district attorney’s office has been investigating some of the arrangements Trump made to reduce his tax bill. Data in the returns could be essential in analyzing whether any of those manoeuvrs crossed legal lines.

One of the breaks under scrutiny is the one that Trump got for donating part of his Seven Springs estate, north of New York City, to a conservation trust. Some experts have questioned whether Trump overvalued the land to get a bigger break than he deserved.

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