Donald Trump faces a double criminal investigation in New York City, with the state attorney general’s office declaring his ongoing civil investigation into the former president and his businesses is now a criminal case.
The attorney general’s office is leading the investigation, confirmed Tuesday evening, in tandem with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been scrutinizing Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, for about two years.
The prosecutor’s office searched Trump’s tax records, hired a former Mafia prosecutor to help with his investigation, and interviewed witnesses, including former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen.
So far, there is no indication that charges are looming. Trump continued to decry the whole thing as a “witch hunt.”
Here is an overview of the situation:
WHO IS INVESTIGATING TRUMP?
New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., both Democrats, have been running parallel investigations into Trump and his companies for more than two years.
Vance’s office investigated whether the ex-Republican president, his company, or people associated with them committed crimes related to issues such as covert payments for women who say they slept with Trump, ratings real estate and employee compensation.
James’ investigation began as a civil case, examining possible violations of state laws that carry penalties such as fines, and has focused on some of the same issues. His investigation now also focuses on possible criminal conduct.
WHY IS THE AG PROBE NOW CRIMINAL?
James’ office said it recently informed the Trump organization that its investigation of the company had extended to a criminal case. The attorney general’s office made the change public on Tuesday evening.
“We have informed the Trump organization that our investigation of the company is no longer purely civilian in nature,” James’s office said in a statement.
“We are currently actively investigating the Trump organization criminally, with the Manhattan District Attorney.”
James’ office did not provide any explanation as to what prompted the change in approach to the investigation or why it chose to publicly announce it.
Andrew G. Celli Jr., a senior attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2003, said you usually don’t see a public announcement when an investigation moves from civilian to criminal.
He said the statement could be an indication “something else public is coming”, or could be a way “to send a message to witnesses and targets.”
Another possibility, not as dramatic, is that someone else informed the media about the change and James’ office was forced to respond publicly when asked about it.
“Without a doubt, there is a strategic or tactical reason for this announcement,” Celli said. “Statements like this make sense. They don’t come out of nowhere.
HOW DID TRUMP TAKE THE NEWS?
Trump released a 900-word statement on Wednesday filled with familiar complaints about Vance and James’ investigations and searches.
Trump has complained that he has been “unfairly attacked and abused by a corrupt political system” and argues that the criminal investigations are part of a Democratic plot to silence his constituents and prevent him from running for office again. the Presidency.
Trump also reiterated his oft-voiced claim that the investigations are “the continuation of the greatest political witch-hunt in US history.”
“There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is desperate for a crime,” Trump said. “But make no mistake, that’s exactly what’s going on here.”
WHAT ELSE ARE THEY INVESTIGATING?
Vance’s office has not publicly said what it envisions, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but some details have come to light during the legal battle to gain access to Trump’s tax records.
Vance’s investigation includes a close examination of Trump’s relationship with his lenders; a donation of land he made to qualify for an income tax deduction; and the tax write-offs her company claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid.
Some of that money went to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who denied any wrongdoing. In a tweet last November, she called the investigation “outright harassment” and said it was “100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage”.
James’ office also reviewed the land donation and reviewed records relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles.
Vance’s investigation appeared to focus in recent weeks on longtime Trump chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Her former daughter-in-law, Jen Weisselberg, is cooperating with both investigations. She handed investigators a plethora of tax records and other documents as they investigated whether certain Trump employees had received unconventional compensation, such as apartments or tuition.
Weisselberg was subpoenaed as part of James’ civil investigation and testified twice last year.
Trump’s son Eric was also subpoenaed in connection with this investigation and testified ahead of the November 2020 election.
WILL THIS MIDDLE TRUMP BE LOADED?
James’ disclosure of an expanded investigation is not necessarily an indication that she is considering laying criminal charges.
If that were to happen, according to state law, she would need permission from a county attorney, like Vance, or the governor or a state agency.
Celli says it’s not uncommon for a civilian investigation by the attorney general’s office to reveal evidence of criminal acts.
In such cases, he said, attorneys from the attorney general’s office will sometimes be specially appointed to work as criminal prosecutors with a local district attorney’s office.