The statement by New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday night that her office’s investigation into The Trump Organization has extended from a purely civil inquiry to include a criminal inquiry is a good reminder of the multiple legal entanglements that former President Donald Trump is facing as he tries to maintain control of the Republican Party and considers a presidential re-run in 2024.
Although James’ office did not comment on what prompted her to turn the inquiry criminal, CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams made a statement on how it relates to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s continuing probe into the Trump business.
“What it appears to be is that the A.G.’s office, in the course of investigating civil wrongs by the President, found something that just didn’t look right and appeared to have some sort of criminal element to it and brought the D.A.’s office in. This allows them to pool resources, share information. And, in effect, helps both offices’ investigations out.”
Trump, as expected, made a long statement decrying the investigations into him and implying that James is just interested in “bringing down Trump.”
While we don’t know if James’ office discovered any additional possibly criminal conduct by The Trump Organization throughout the course of what had been a civil inquiry, we do know what the AG and DA were looking into.
Here’s is the breakdown into these investigations:
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating Trump’s asset valuation
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s testified in Congress where he claims that Trump and his family “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” James stated that she would look into the accusations to determine if they met the definition of fraud.
Both Trump’s son Eric and longtime Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg have been deposed by her office.
“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA,” James’ spokesman Fabien Levy told CNN. “We have no additional comment.”
This wide-ranging investigation of the Trump Organization looked at whether it deceived lenders and insurance companies about the worth of properties as being less than they actually are to avoid paying the correct taxes.
The investigation will include the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York, 40 Wall Street – a skyscraper in the lower park of Manhattan, Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago;, and the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is conducting an investigation into The Trump Organization’s financial operations
This investigation came from the questions regarding several hush money payments made before 2016 election by Michael Cohen, former personal attorney and “fixer” to Donald Trump to women alleging they had engaged in extramarital affairs with Trump.
In 2019, under oath, Cohen told Congress that was sure that Trump knew about the payments of the hush money.
Vance’s inquiry is broader than simply the hush money, since he is also looking at whether Trump deflated the value of his properties to lenders and insurance agencies, as well as whether Trump then paid the correct amount of taxes.
Vance’s investigation received a significant boost in February when the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s bid to keep eight years of tax documents, from 2011 to 2019, out of Vance’s hands.
Vance’s office hired a former FBI forensic account who was deeply involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election last month.
Morgan Magionos, a trained fraud examiner and accountant, served in the FBI’s international corruption team in Washington, DC for nine years.
Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit
A federal court denied Trump’s efforts, supported by Department of Justice attorneys, to essentially dismiss a lawsuit brought by Carroll alleging that Trump raped her.
Carroll claims in her 2019 book that Trump raped her in a dressing room at a posh Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
“She’s not my type,” he said in response to her accusations.
This finding authorizes Trump to be sued for defamation.
Carroll filed her complaint in New York state court in August, and when Trump contested it, a trial court judge determined that the action could go forward, allowing Carroll’s attorneys to press through with their attempt to collect a DNA sample from Trump and conduct his deposition under oath.
The lawsuit is currently being hurdled through federal court.
Summer Zervos’ defamation lawsuit
Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, sued Trump in 2017, claiming that in denying her allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 2007, he defamed her and harassed her.
She claims Trump kissed her twice on the lips at a lunch meeting in his New York City office, and she claims he kissed her violently and groped her breast on another occasion in Beverly Hills.
Trump lost a move to dismiss the case in late 2019, and in March, a New York appeals court rejected Trump’s final appeal, resolving the matter to a trial court.
More than a dozen more women have accused Trump of different sorts of sexual misconduct, including Zervos.
All of the charges have been categorically refuted by the previous President.
Mary Trump’s lawsuit
The President’s niece, and author of the scathing book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” sued Trump in September 2020.
The complaint claims her two uncles and her aunt, a retired federal judge, colluded among themselves and with numerous other parties, including a trustee authorized to act on Mary’s behalf, to provide her with a slew of bogus assessments and force her to sign a settlement agreement that cheated her out of tens of millions of dollars or more.
Mary Trump has also accused Donald Trump of attempting to “steal vast sums of money from his siblings” by surreptitiously changing his elderly father’s will in order to remove his siblings from control of the family fortune.
It’s unclear if Trump will suffer direct legal consequences as a result of any of these probes.
And, if history is any guide, Trump will use every means available to stall the legal process and muddy the waters in terms of public image.
There’s no doubt that James’ revelation on Tuesday night marks the beginning of a new and perhaps more dangerous chapter of the investigation for Trump.
Even if he manages to avoid the investigations, he still faces a slew of additional legal issues.