WASHINGTON — The stakes of investigations into former President Donald Trump and his close orbit increased on Tuesday, when New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she’s joining forces with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization.
“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature,” James spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement first reported late Tuesday by CNN. “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan (district attorney).”
While the New York attorney has been conducting a civil investigation examining the finances of the Trump Organization for over a year, the latest revelation ups the pressure on the former president and his family, who have been dogged by investigators over the past several years.
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The implications of a criminal investigation into Trump and those in his close orbit have gained particular salience because Trump now lacks any immunity he enjoyed while president. The former president cannot pardon his former aides and close allies, a power he used to protect associates who were pursued in previous criminal investigations.
Here is what we know about the latest investigation into Trump and how it fits into the broader legal troubles for the former president.
What is being investigated?
James’ announcement of cooperation with the Manhattan DA adds weight to the ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, examining potential tax and bank-related fraud. Prosecutors are especially interested in whether Trump overvalued his properties and obscured debts in order to obtain valuable loans and other financial negotiations.
The New York attorney general will now cooperate with that investigation, broadening the available resources, jurisdiction and potential penalties. It is not immediately clear what additional roles the attorney general’s office will play.
The original investigation began after Trump’s former personal fixer Michael Cohen alleged in 2019 testimony to Congress that he and Trump repeatedly misled potential lenders and clients about the value of their properties and businesses in official documents.
Related:From Trump fixer to Mueller informant: Timeline of Michael Cohen’s role in Russia probe
Supreme Court battle for taxes tied to investigation
Vance’s office was involved in a years-long court battle to obtain the former president’s tax records and other documents relating to the Trump Organization.
The battle was finished at the Supreme Court, where the justices determined that the then-president must make his taxes available to the prosecutors but that prosecutors could not make the files public.
The district attorney received millions of pages of documents from the organization, including eight years of Trump’s tax returns.
Taxes received:Donald Trump’s tax records obtained by New York prosecutors, boosting investigation
And the attorney general is no stranger to investigating the Trump family’s endeavors.
James previously investigated the Trump Foundation, the family organization’s charitable arm, for fraud. The investigation resulted in the organization paying out $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities in 2019. The foundation was then disolved by court order later that year.
Big picture:‘Vulnerable to prosecution’: When Trump leaves White House, presidential ‘cloak of immunity’ goes away
Trump and the Georgia election
Trump is also facing a criminal investigation in Georgia, where Fulton County prosecutors are examining Trump’s attempts to interfere in the state’s election and illegally tilt the vote count in his favor.
Georgia prosecutors have acknowledged they are reviewing a range of possible offenses, including solicitation of election fraud, false statements, conspiracy, oath of office violations, racketeering and violence associated with threats to the election process.
2020 fallout:Georgia prosecutors investigate election fraud, conspiracy after Trump’s pressure campaign as part of ‘high-priority’ criminal probe
Other legal issues for Trump
Trump is also facing two defamation lawsuits brought by women who accused him of sexually assaulting them and then disparaging them as he denied the allegations.
Former Elle magazine writer E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City in the mid-1990s. She sued him for defamation in 2019, after Trump accused her of lying to boost the sale of her memoir in which she described the incident. Carroll is also seeking DNA evidence to see if Trump’s genetic material is on a dress she said she wore during the alleged rape.
Related:19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Here’s what their stories have in common.
Former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos filed a similar lawsuit in New York state court, claiming that Trump forced himself on her by kissing and groping on multiple occasions.
Meanwhile, Mary Trump, the president’s niece, has accused him and his siblings of cheating her out of millions of dollars in inheritance while squeezing them out of the family business.
More:Biden says he won’t order an investigation of Trump, president’s legal troubles remain
Trump responds to New York investigation
Trump, in a lengthy written statement, cast the attorney general’s announcement as political warfare.
“There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime,” Trump said. “But, make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here…The Attorney General of New York literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me.”
Kevin Johnson and Jon Campbell contributed to this report.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.