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Trump's accountant, banker cooperate with New York investigation

What could be worse for Donald Trump than having his accountant talk to a grand jury? How about seeing his banker cooperate with investigators, too?

Donald Trump was already facing a criminal inquiry, multiple civil suits, and criminal charges against his private business when the former president confronted another unwelcome headline last month: A second grand jury had been empaneled in New York as part of an investigation into his financial practices.

Yesterday, the news got a little worse for the Republican when we learned who's been talking to that grand jury. The Washington Post reported:

A longtime accountant for former president Donald Trump — who helped prepare Trump's taxes and the financial statements his company used to woo lenders — testified recently before a New York grand jury investigating Trump's financial practices, according to two people familiar with that investigation. Accountant Donald Bender, of the firm Mazars, appeared before a grand jury that was impaneled this fall by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) to weigh potential criminal charges, the people said.

To be sure, Bender is not widely known to the public, but as the Post's report explained, Trump's accountant is a highly relevant figure in this investigation: "Prosecutors already obtained millions of pages of Trump-related documents from Bender's firm, after a court battle that went to the Supreme Court twice. Now, they have sought testimony from a man who could serve as a human road map to that data."

Or as Rachel asked on last night's show, "What could be worse for Trump than learning that his longtime accountant is testifying about him to the grand jury — a grand jury that has millions of pages of documents to back up that testimony?"

The answer, of course, is not much, though it might be worse if the former president's banker was also cooperating with the investigation.

And as it turns out, the same Post report added that prosecutors in recent weeks have interviewed Rosemary Vrablic, a former managing director at Deutsche Bank "who arranged hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Trump." According to the article, Vrablic has not appeared before the grand jury, at least not yet, though she's spoken to prosecutors "about Trump's role in dealings with the bank."

At this point, I suspect there will be some cynics who see developments like these and shrug their shoulders, assuming that Trump has avoided accountability before, so there's no point in expecting a serious outcome now.

But let's not forget that this grand jury process in Manhattan hasn't been spinning its wheels. On the contrary, this is the same investigation that's produced felony charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer.

This is not, in other words, a hollow exercise going nowhere.

As for the line of inquiry investigators are pursuing, by all accounts, the controversy surrounds how Trump's operation valued its assets — which may sound like a boring topic, but it's a surprisingly potent problem for the former president.