"They asked us to stand down": Ex-Manhattan DA says Trump DOJ intervened in Stormy Daniels probe

Legal expert says it was an "odd request" because DOJ "did not indict Trump or anyone else after that point"

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published April 3, 2023 11:36AM (EDT)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. arrives at his office on July 01, 2021 in Lower Manhattan New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. arrives at his office on July 01, 2021 in Lower Manhattan New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said that the Justice Department asked his office to "stand down" in its investigation of the 2016 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Vance faced questions about why he failed to file charges against former President Donald Trump in the probe after a grand jury indicted him in connection to the payment last week.

"Why didn't you charge the hush money case? Why didn't you ever charge it in 2018, 2019, 2020?" NBC News' Chuck Todd asked Vance on "Meet the Press."

"I don't want to get into the deliberations that might be covered by grand jury material. But... I was asked by the U.S. attorney's office of the Southern District to stand down on our investigation, which had commenced involving the Trump Organization," Vance replied. "And as you know, as someone who respects that office a great deal and believing that they may have perhaps the best laws to investigate, I did so."

Todd pressed Vance on the details of the probe.

"Did your office conclude that a stand alone felony charge for these hush money payments wasn't worth it because of so many of the uncertainties around the legal theory?" Todd asked. "And that's why you were pursuing this larger issue, that this was just one part of sort of how the Trump Organization lied on their on their business records."

"Again, I don't want to get into our deliberations," Vance said. "But we have historically filed cases of false documentation, elevating them to felonies when federal statutes were involved. It's never been done that I know of with regard to federal election law, which is a quite a specific area of law. But I think the question is not so much why didn't I do it or we did it, but why this district attorney is doing it. And that really requires us to be patient and to wait. This process isn't going to be accelerated by us talking about it."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Vance also spoke with former White House Press Secretary and MSNBC host Jen Psaki about the once-seemingly deadened hush-money case. 

"We learned from the Southern District of New York that they asked us to stand down … they had this ongoing investigation and they wished that we put our efforts on hold while they completed their investigation," Vance said. "I felt it was appropriate for me to hit the pause button." 

"I was surprised, after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, that the investigation from the Southern District on that issue did not go forward. By that time we had moved on to other matters," Vance continued. 

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti described the DOJ intervention as an "odd request" given that the "SDNY did not indict Trump or anyone else after that point."

"Did then-Attorney General Barr play any role in that request? Did Trump?" Mariotti wondered

MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin explained that it is "not atypical" for federal and local prosecutors to have a "turf war" over a case. 

"What is unusual, however, is for the feds to both insist that they're all over the investigation, only to have it watered down at the insistence of political appointees and then drop it entirely, as SDNY did in summer 2019," she tweeted. 

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Gabriella Ferrigine

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Alvin Bragg Cyrus Vance Donald Trump Politics Stormy Daniels