But while untangling eight years of complicated financial transactions can take time, Vance’s team likely is not starting from ground zero, even with respect to documents that Trump is being forced to turn over for the first time. Not only have investigators learned a lot about Trump’s potential criminality from their independent probe over the last year and a half, it’s entirely possible that prosecutors already had access to the tax returns and some of the other information that the former president’s accountants will now officially release.
Even where prosecutors obtain information informally, they still need to obtain the information through official channels to comply with evidentiary requirements and establish the documents’ authenticity and chain of custody. But if Vance’s team did get some or all of these documents through a leak or an informant, for example, they will already have been able to move ahead with investigatory steps based on that information.
He should be. It has taken many months of legal wrangling for Vance’s subpoena to be honored; it may be just a matter of weeks before he is in a position to make charging decisions.