Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. informed his staff Friday morning, after telling The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer in an interview published soon afterward, that he won’t seek a fourth term and plans to leave office on Dec. 31. “There’s nothing worse than a politician who doesn’t know when to leave,” Vance, 66, told Mayer, implicitly contrasting his departure to the long, long tenure of his storied predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, who retired at age 90 after 35 years in office.
Vance’s decision means he has nine months to decide whether to bring charges in the largest case of his career, the potential prosecution of former President Donald Trump and his associates on a host of tax, banking, and insurance fraud charges. And if he and his grand jury do decide to file charges against Trump, as many knowledgeable allies believe they will, the actual prosecution would fall to his successor, Mayer notes. “Eight Democratic candidates are campaigning for the job, and, given the city’s liberal leanings, the victor of the Democratic primary, in June, is all but guaranteed to win in November.”
By all accounts, the Trump investigation shifted into high gear after Vance obtained eight years of Trump’s tax and accounting records. He has hired prominent former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz and forensic accounting firm FTI to handle or advise in the Trump case. Pomerantz, who obtained a conviction of mob boss John Gotti in 1999 but has more recently defended white-collar criminals, was partly brought in “to scare the sh-t out of people,” one well-informed source told Mayer. Former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, who worked under Morgenthau, said she believes Pomerantz will ensure continuity and stability in the Trump case after Vance’s successor is elected.
If indicted, Trump is expected to fight hard and fight dirty to avoid conviction, and he’s already calling the case a political “witch hunt.” But Vance, who Mayer describes as an earnest straight-shooting son of privilege who is disinterested in and bad at politics, doesn’t fit the mold of a witch hunter. “When you have all the power we have as prosecutors, it can’t be leveled against people for political purposes,” Vance told Mayer. “We’ve prosecuted Republicans and Democrats, and we’ve investigated and not prosecuted Republicans and Democrats. It’s got to be based on the facts.”