Mark Pomerantz on investigating Donald Trump
This past week, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg made headlines when it was reported he was presenting evidence to a grand jury of Donald Trump's alleged involvement in hush money payments to pornstar Stormy Daniels. It was the most dramatic news involving DA Bragg since he halted another grand jury probe a year ago - that one of Mr. Trump's real estate financial records. Bragg's decision prompted veteran prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, to resign in protest. Pomerantz has a reputation for handling complex financial crimes, and he told us he doesn't understand why his team was stopped from proceeding. Tonight, you'll hear what Pomerantz discovered in his investigation and why he still thinks the DA Should prosecute the former president on what he says is a very significant case of financial fraud.
Mark Pomerantz: If you take the exact same conduct-- and make it not about Donald Trump and not about a former president of the United States, would the case have been indicted? It would have been indicted in a flat second.
Bill Whitaker: You said in your resignation letter that-- Bragg's decision amounted to-- a grave failure of justice.
Mark Pomerantz: Yes.
Bill Whitaker: You still believe that?
Mark Pomerantz: I still believe it.
Bill Whitaker: But don't prosecutors often disagree with decisions made by their bosses? I mean, what-- what makes this different?
Mark Pomerantz: given all the evidence that we had -- nobody said, "Hey, the guy's not guilty"
Bill Whitaker: Nobody said that?
Mark Pomerantz: Nobody ever said that.
Mark Pomerantz, who spent one year examining the former president's annual financial statements and accounting documents from 2011 to 2020, said everyone on his team concluded Donald Trump had lied about his assets to appear wealthier than he was to obtain multimillion dollar favorable bank loans to expand his real estate empire. Pomerantz said Mr. Trump used the money to buy the Doral Hotel in Miami, refinance the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and to renovate the Old Post Office property in Washington DC.
Mark Pomerantz: And what the investigation determined was that the financial statements that were submitted to banks for those years were overstated in each case by literally billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: Billions--
Mark Pomerantz: Billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: How was his business empire dependent on, or influenced by these false statements?
Mark Pomerantz: The financial statements that he prepared were given to the banks, and had to be given to the banks, in order to get the loans that he got. So he got hundreds of millions of dollars of bank financing in connection with many of his properties.
Bill Whitaker: it sounds like you're saying that his empire is built on lies.
Mark Pomerantz: His empire was built on lies. I am saying that.
Pomerantz said the investigation found Donald Trump dramatically inflated the values of his marquee properties – Mar-a-Lago, 40 Wall Street, Seven Springs in Westchester County, New York, some of his golf clubs, and his penthouse apartment – in order to bolster his net worth.
Mark Pomerantz: So what you get out of it was a net worth that Trump could announce to the world was the net worth that he wanted to announce.
Donald Trump at campaign announcement: The total is 8,737,540,000 dollars. Now, I'm not doing that-- I'm not doing that to brag, 'cause you know what? I don't have to brag. I don't have to, believe it or not.
Donald Trump touted his supposed net worth in 2015 while announcing his presidential campaign. His financial statements are now at the heart of a separate but similar civil fraud case pending against Mr. Trump and others filed in September by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Letitia James: ...the complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars.
Donald Trump has called the attorney general's case a politically driven witch hunt and denied wrongdoing partly he says because he paid off the loans.
Mark Pomerantz: That doesn't mean the banks are okay with false financial statements.
Bill Whitaker: He paid off the loans. What's the crime?
Mark Pomerantz: The law is crystal clear that you don't have to prove that a loan wasn't repaid or that a bank lost money. It's still a crime to lie to a bank to get a loan.
Pomerantz has written a book, "People vs. Donald Trump," published by Simon & Schuster which is owned by our parent company, Paramount. He came out of retirement in February 2021 to join then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance's investigation. He says his team interviewed dozens of people, including some of Donald Trump's bankers, appraisers, accountants, and his former attorney, Michael Cohen, who had testified before Congress in 2019 about Donald Trump's financial practices.
Lacy Clay: To your knowledge, did the President or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?
Michael Cohen: Yes.
Lacy Clay: And, was that done with the President's knowledge or direction?
Michael Cohen: Everything was done with the knowledge and at the direction of Mr. Trump.
Mark Pomerantz: And what he told us, in a nutshell, was that he had been in the room with Trump and with Allen Weisselberg, who was the CFO of the Trump Organization. And the conversation involved Donald Trump saying, "My net worth needs to be X." And so, you start with the net worth target.
Bill Whitaker: So reverse-engineering?
Mark Pomerantz: Reverse-engineering so that you come back, and you say, "Okay, boss-- we've done your financial statement, and it shows $5 billion."
Bill Whitaker: "And then you guys go out and figure out how to add up my assets to reach this false number."
Mark Pomerantz: Correct. And it was easier to "bump up" certain assets than other assets. Seven Springs, Mar-a-Lago, the triplex: his residences, each of which, by the way, he claimed to have a value in that was more than anybody had ever bought or sold a private residence for in the history of the United States, ever.
Bill Whitaker: Ever.
Mark Pomerantz: Correct.
Bill Whitaker: But you've told us, I mean, and he admitted, Cohen's a convicted perjurer.
Mark Pomerantz: That's right.
Bill Whitaker: So how-- how far can his testimony go?
Mark Pomerantz: And that's why it was so important for us to go to the accounting documents. How do you know he's telling the truth? You know it because you see it in the documents.
He's talking about Donald Trump's accounting documents used to calculate the value of the former president's real estate, some of which Mark Pomerantz shared with us. He released them after they were made public in Letitia James' lawsuit. Attorney Pomerantz said he did not share grand jury material with us.
Bill Whitaker: You said it went on for years. What was-- what was the pattern?
Mark Pomerantz: The tactics varied from property to property to property. What they had in common was that they were dishonest.
The accounting spreadsheets valued Mar-a-Lago at $739 million in 2018; but Attorney General James concluded it was only worth about $75 million, almost 10 times less, in part because Mr. Trump had given away the residential development rights for a tax deduction.
In Westchester, New York, Trump's financial documents valued development rights for his "Seven Springs" property at $161 million in 2014. But Pomerantz said the Trump Organization's own hired appraiser just months earlier had valued the development rights between $29 million and $50 million.
Donald Trump purchased his golf course in Jupiter, Florida, for $5 million in 2012, but seven months later on his financial documents valued it at $62 million, then filed a lawsuit claiming his taxes were too high.
Mark Pomerantz: He not only values it at 12 times what he paid for in his financial statement, but then he sues the tax assessor saying, "You had to know this couldn't be worth more than five, 'cause that's what I paid for it in an arm's length transaction."
Bill Whitaker: What ties Donald Trump directly to this? You know, couldn't he say "my accountants said it's worth this. I signed it"?
Mark Pomerantz: There were many bits and pieces of evidence on which we could rely in making that case.
One of those pieces, Pomerantz showed us, is part of a Deutsche Bank loan showing Trump personally verified his statements are accurate.
Mark Pomerantz: He warrants that the financial statements are true and correct in all material respects. Finally of course on the guaranty is his sharpie signature, Donald J. Trump.
In 2015 and 2016 accounting documents, Donald Trump listed his Fifth Avenue condominium as 30,000 square feet.
Mark Pomerantz: But it wasn't 30,000 square feet. It was 11,000 square feet. So--
Bill Whitaker: That's a huge discrepancy.
Mark Pomerantz: Yes, it's a huge-- (LAUGH) it's a huge variation.
And, Pomerantz showed us, back in 1994, Donald Trump signed condominium paperwork acknowledging the apartment's actual square footage.
Bill Whitaker: Truly it says right here that the size of the apartment is 10,996 feet.
Mark Pomerantz: Right.
Bill Whitaker: With his signature right here.
Mark Pomerantz: Yeah. For the apartment that he lives in and built.
In a statement to 60 Minutes, a lawyer for former President Trump, Joe Tacopina, said Pomerantz is falsely accusing Mr. Trump of felonies to sell a book. Mark Pomerantz said the evidence he gathered persuaded the former district attorney, Cyrus Vance, to authorize presenting the evidence to a grand jury to seek an indictment against Donald Trump.
Alvin Bragg: Too often there are two standards of justice. One for the rich and powerful and connected, and another for everyone else. I'm Alvin Bragg, and I'm running for Manhattan District Attorney to change that.
In January of 2022, Alvin Bragg, who campaigned on a promise to hold powerful New Yorkers accountable, was sworn in as the new Manhattan district attorney. And according to Pomerantz, the next month stopped his team from seeking an indictment of Mr. Trump.
Bill Whitaker: What did he want you to do? Slow down? Did he ever say that?
Mark Pomerantz: He did not say to slow down. He never said, "I don't wanna be rushed. There's not enough time. I need more time to study the facts." He said, "Okay. You need a decision? You get a decision." And the decision was no. "You're not going forward."
Pomerantz and the office's general counsel, Carey Dunne, promptly resigned. Bragg reportedly had concerns about the strength of the case.
Alvin Bragg: We decided not to bring any charges at that time, so that we could continue our investigation, which is what we're doing.
In December, DA Bragg won a tax fraud case against the Trump Organization. He didn't charge the former president. But Pomerantz said the case he developed against Donald Trump should still be launched.
Bill Whitaker: I know you have not spoken to Alvin Bragg. But if you were to speak to him what would you tell him?
Mark Pomerantz: This was a righteous case. You should bring it. It's important. And if you made the wrong decision, make a better decision.
In a statement to 60 Minutes, District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he agreed with senior prosecutors in the office who believed they needed to investigate further. That, he wrote us, is what his office has continued to do with great skill and professionalism.
Produced by Sarah Koch. Associate producer, Madeleine Carlisle. Broadcast associate, Natalie Breitkopf. Edited by Patrick Lee.
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