The New York prosecutor leading the most significant criminal probe against Donald Trump and his business announced Friday he is not running for reelection, putting the spotlight on who will be elected to take over the investigation into the former president and his business.
Sources have told CNN for weeks that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is not seeking reelection, and according to state campaign disclosures, he wasn’t actively raising money for a campaign.
Vance’s departure adds intrigue to an ongoing probe into Trump and the Trump Organization, which has spanned two years. In February, Vance’s office won its bid to obtain eight years’ worth of Trump’s taxes and financial documents after the Supreme Court ruled in prosecutors’ favor, ending a 17-month battle over whether the documents should be released.
People familiar with the matter have told CNN that Vance is likely to decide whether to charge a case or close the investigation by the end of the year.
Investigators are now in the process of combing through millions of pages of tax returns, work papers and communications related to the returns, as well as financial statements and engagement agreements from January 2011 to August 2019.
In a memo to prosecutors and staff, Vance said the office would work “harder than ever” over the next nine months to “move justice forward in court cases large and small.”
“I never imagined myself as District Attorney for decades like my predecessors,” Vance said in the memo. “I never thought of this as my last job, even though it’s the best job and biggest honor I’ll ever have. I said twelve years ago that change is fundamentally good and necessary for any institution.”
There is large slate of candidates competing in a June Democratic primary to succeed Vance: Alvin Bragg, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Diana Florence, Lucy Lang, Dan Quart, Liz Crotty, Tahanie Aboushi and Eliza Orlins.
The candidates range from public defenders, former federal prosecutors, a state lawmaker to veterans of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office itself, and have largely deferred comment when asked how they’d handle the investigation into Trump.
Whoever wins that race is all but assured to be the next district attorney of Manhattan, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Vance has served as Manhattan district attorney for more than a decade and oversaw the prosecution of figures such as Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted of committing a criminal sex act in the first degree and rape in the third degree in 2020.
The son of a former US secretary of state and Washington insider, Vance spent the better part of his legal career as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. He ran for district attorney and was sworn into office in 2010 after a more than 30-year run by his predecessor Robert Morgenthau.
Vance moved to modernize the office and built a 17,000-square-foot cyberlab, the first in the country. He also created new units, such as cold case/forensic sciences, hate crimes, antiquities trafficking, and a construction fraud task force.
Vance has been innovative in pursuing some cases and in 2019, his office obtained the first conviction on state domestic terrorism charges.
But he has also drawn criticism for his handling of high-profile cases. Early on in his time as district attorney, Vance’s office asked a judge in 2011 to dismiss sexual assault charges against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was accused of sexually assaulting a worker in his Manhattan hotel suite.
After Jeffrey Epstein was indicted on sex trafficking charges in 2019, Vance’s office drew ire when it was revealed that one of its prosecutors asked a judge to lower Epstein’s sex offender status to the least restrictive level in 2011.
In March 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state attorney general’s office to look into Vance and his office’s decision not to prosecute Weinstein for sex abuse crimes.
A spokesman for Vance said at the time that “The idea that our office would shrink from the challenge of prosecuting a powerful man is belied by our daily work and unparalleled record of success on behalf of sexual assault survivors.”
Two months later, Vance’s office announced Weinstein had been indicted on rape and criminal sex act charges.
Vance also drew criticism after a 2017 ProPublica report said that a lawyer for the Trump family donated to Vance’s reelection campaign shortly before his office dropped a two-year investigation that was looking at whether Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump allegedly misled potential buyers of the now-defunct Trump Soho, a hotel-condo building.
“They had no impact on my thinking,” Vance said at the time.
With news of his decision not to run for another term, Vance would leave the office by the end of 2021.
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this story.