The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday that it has expanded its civil probe into the Trump Organization to investigate the corporate entity in a “criminal capacity,” a development that potentially heightens the legal threat the former president faces in his erstwhile home state.
In a statement, a spokesperson for James said that “we have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature.”
The spokesperson said the New York AG’s office is “now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity” along with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who in 2018 launched a criminal probe into Trump’s private business dealings that has intensified since the former president left office in January.
“This is huge,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, tweeted in response to news of the New York AG’s expanding investigation, which will still include a civil component.
As the Washington Post noted, “Previously, the danger posed by James’s investigation seemed to be merely financial — the kind of lawsuit Trump had faced from New York attorneys general before over his Trump University and his charity. Those cost him money but didn’t threaten his liberty.”
“Now, however, James could also seek criminal penalties,” the Post observed. “And she appears to be cooperating with Vance’s office, a move that could allow the two wide-ranging investigations to share data.”
Vance’s team is currently raking through years of Trump’s personal and business tax records, which the Manhattan district attorney’s office obtained earlier this year following a protracted legal battle with the former president that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
James’ office, meanwhile, has examined whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated its assets to obtain loans and tax benefits, as well as other possible wrongdoing.
“If Trump, who remains the Republican Party’s most popular potential presidential candidate and who recently signaled interest in another run, is charged and convicted, he could end up serving a prison term instead of a second White House term,” the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer wrote in March.