A key accountant to Donald Trump appeared before a Manhattan grand jury investigating the former President’s business practices earlier this year, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.
The Washington Post reported earlier Tuesday that the accountant, Donald Bender from the accounting firm Mazers USA, had testified again more recently in a brief appearance before the panel, according to two people familiar with the investigation, but could return for additional testimony moving forward. Bender helped prepare the financial statements that the Trump Organization presented to lenders, as well as handled large amounts of Trump’s financial information.
Prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office also recently met with current and former employees of Deutsche Bank, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Those employees were asked about representations Trump organization officials made to the bank, which has loaned the company hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.
One of those former employees, according to the Post, was Rosemary Vrablic, Trump’s top financial adviser at the German lender. Prosecutors asked Vrablic in their interview, which wasn’t before a grand jury, about Trump’s part in dealings with the bank, one person told the paper.
Vrablic’s attorney didn’t respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Bender’s and Vrablic’s reported appearances suggest prosecutors have placed a focus on outside financial advisers to Trump as they work to glean information about his business dealings. Investigators are probing whether the Trump Organization provided inaccurate financial statements about the value of properties when seeking financing and tax assessments, CNN has reported.
A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment to CNN. A representative for the Trump Organization could not be reached for comment, but the organization has previously called the investigation a politically motivated witch hunt.
Mazars told CNN in a statement that “due to our industry’s professional obligations Mazars cannot discuss any clients—current or former, the status of our relationships, or the nature of our services in a public forum without client consent or as required by law. We remain committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations.”
Vance’s investigation, which began in earnest in August 2019, includes allegations made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen that the Trump Organization inflated assets when seeking loans and deflated them when it came time to pay taxes. CNN previously reported that investigators have interviewed Cohen at least eight times and that investigators are looking into numerous loans the Trump Organization has taken out, including those from Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital.
Prosecutors are also combing through millions of pages of documents, including Trump’s tax returns, which they obtained in February after the US Supreme Court blocked Trump’s attempt to stop a subpoena to his longtime accounting firm.
The investigation encompasses Trump Tower, the family estate known as Seven Springs, its Chicago hotel and condo tower.
Prosecutors shifted the investigation to off-the-books compensation this spring and Bender appeared before the grand jury around that time, the people said. Prosecutors announced an indictment against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax fraud charges relating to off-the-books compensation in July. The company and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty.
The investigation’s focus has shifted back toward the accuracy of the financial statements and representations over the past few months, sources said.
Trump has previously said in depositions in civil investigations that Weisselberg helped prepare the financial statements. At the same time, the documents and depositions appear to show that even as Trump claimed that he left those valuation decisions to someone else, he was also deeply involved in running his business.
Cohen first made his allegations public in testimony before Congress. At the time he made several financial statements public, including one from 2012. In that statement, which CNN has reviewed, Trump’s accounting firm notes that “Donald J Trump is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statement,” adding they did not audit the statement and identified several deviations from generally accepted accounting principles. The statement also notes that users “should recognize that they might reach different conclusions about the financial condition of Donald J Trump if they had access to a revised statement of financial condition” without the departures to accounting rules.
Lenders like Deutsche Bank are sophisticated and often perform their own analyses.