Vance has said he's investigating hush-money payments made just before the 2016 election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims she once had a sexual relationship with Trump. Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, has already been convicted of violating federal campaign finance laws for making the $130,000 payment to Daniels.
But Vance can only bring charges under state law. Several lawyers said Vance is likely looking at whether the Trump Organization falsified records relating to its reimbursement and bonus payments to Cohen, who received $420,000.
In New York, falsifying business records can only be considered a felony if it's done to conceal illegal activity, like tax fraud. That may be what Vance is driving at, said Moscow.
"If in fact the Trump Organization took business deductions for that kind of stuff, then the DA in Manhattan has a criminal case," Moscow said. "If the company takes a $420,000 deduction for that payment, they're paying less to the city and to the state, which are subsidizing people to keep them quiet about their dealings with Donald."
But it's not clear how the president's personal tax returns fit into an investigation of his company's deductions.
"They might be trying to trace where the money came from," Lurie said, "and to the extent that Trump's tax returns identify different bank accounts and sources of potential cash, they may be trying to trace the money back to the president in some way."
Prosecutors may be expecting the president's tax returns to reveal new information that could form the basis of a fresh criminal probe. "It would shock me if that's not on their mind," Lurie said.
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