Donald Trump faces two simultaneous criminal investigations in New York, where state prosecutors say its current civil investigation into the former president and his businesses is now criminal in nature.
The state attorney’s office is conducting the investigation, confirmed Tuesday night, in parallel with the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, which has been investigating Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, for about two years.
The district attorney’s office has been reviewing Trump’s tax files, hired a former anti-spam prosecutor to assist in the investigation, and has been interviewing witnesses, including Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney.
So far there is no indication that charges will be filed. Trump continues to describe the affair as a “witch hunt.”
The New York Attorney General’s Office confirmed Tuesday that it has launched a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.
WHO RESEARCHES TRUMP
New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (both Democrats) have been conducting parallel inquiries into Trump and his businesses for more than two years.
Vance’s office is investigating whether the former president, his company or people related to them committed crimes related to matters that include payments to buy the silence of women who say they have had sex with Trump, property appraisals and employee compensation.
James’ investigation began as a civil matter, examining possible violations of state laws that carry penalties such as fines, and focused on some of the same issues.
During the Trump administration, it was announced that USCIS would request information, including facial and iris scans, voice recordings and, in some cases, the DNA of those who applied to live or work in the country.
Now his investigation also concerns the possibility of criminal conduct.
WHY THE SEARCH IS NOW CRIMINAL
James’ office recently informed the Trump Organization that the investigation it is conducting on the company had been expanded to a criminal matter. The prosecution publicly disclosed the change Tuesday night.
“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation of the company is no longer purely civil in nature,” James’s office said in a statement.
Facebook will now have six months to review the decision and determine if it remains indefinite or what is its scope. The January decision left Trump without his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
“We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization on a criminal basis, along with the Manhattan district attorney,” he added.
James’ office did not explain why it changed the focus of the investigation or why it decided to announce it publicly.
Andrew G. Celli Jr., a senior prosecutor from 1999 to 2003, said that it is not routinely announced to the public when the character of an investigation changes from civil to criminal.
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He noted that the statement could be an indication that “something else is publicly to come”, or it could be a way to “send a message to witnesses and targets to be investigated.”
Another not-so-dramatic possibility is that someone else had tipped off the media about the change and James’s office was forced to respond publicly to the express question.
“Without a doubt, there is some strategic or tactical reason behind this announcement,” Celli stated. “Statements like this have a meaning. They don’t come out of nowhere ”.
HOW TRUMP GET THE NEWS
Trump issued a 900-word statement Wednesday filled with well-known complaints about the investigations and criticism of Vance and James.
The former president complained that he is being “unjustly attacked and mistreated by a corrupt political system,” and maintains that the criminal investigations are part of a Democratic plot to silence his supporters and prevent him from running for president again.
Trump also reiterated his contention that the investigations are “a continuation of the largest political witch hunt in US history.”
The coronavirus pandemic unleashed an unprecedented political crisis in the US and a constant confrontation between then-President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden.
“There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is desperately seeking a crime,” Trump declared. “But make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here.”
WHAT ELSE ARE THEY RESEARCHING
Vance’s office has not publicly said what it is investigating, invoking the confidentiality rules of the investigating jury, although some details came to light during the legal battle to gain access to Trump’s tax files.
Vance’s investigation includes looking into Trump’s relationship with his creditors; a donation of land you made to qualify for an income tax deduction; and a tax deduction that his company claimed around millions of dollars paid in consulting fees.
Part of that money went to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who has denied any wrongdoing. In a tweet issued in November, Ivanka described the investigation as “harassment and nothing else”, noting that the investigation was “100% motivated by politics, publicity and anger.”
The prosecution in charge of James has also been examining the land donation and investigating files related to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago and a golf course near Los Angeles.
In recent weeks, Vance’s investigation appears to be focusing on Trump’s longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg. His ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, is cooperating in both investigations.
She has provided investigators with tax files and other documents as they inquire whether some of Trump’s employees received salaries not included in the books of account, such as apartments or school fees.
Less than six weeks after leaving the presidency, Donald Trump gave the closing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday.
Weisselberg was served with a subpoena in James’ civil investigation and he testified a couple of times last year.
Trump’s son Eric also received a subpoena as part of that investigation and testified before the November 2020 election.
DOES THIS MEAN THAT TRUMP WILL FACE CHARGES?
James’ announcement that the investigation has been expanded is not necessarily an indication that he plans to press criminal charges.
If that were to happen, according to state law, she would need authorization from a county district attorney, such as Vance, or from the governor or state agency.
Celli said that it is not uncommon for a civil investigation carried out by the prosecution to find evidence of criminal offenses.
In such cases, he said, sometimes attorneys for the prosecution will be specially appointed to work as criminal prosecutors with a local district attorney’s office.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.