Democrat Attorney-General for New York State, Letitia James, announced last week that she has added a criminal component to the ongoing investigation of Trump Organization’s financial affairs. James intends to join forces with New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s ongoing criminal investigation of Trump’s business practices.
The organisation, a group of some 500 entities, was founded by Donald’s father Fred and his wife in 1923. Donald Trump is its principal owner, although it has been managed by his children since the start of his presidency in 2017.
The exact target of the probes into Trump’s business practices are not yet clear. Questioning has reportedly focused on the inflation and deflation of the value of the organisation’s real estate holdings, either to increase the organisation’s borrowing capacity or reduce its tax liabilities.
The more far-reaching 2018 revelations by The New York Times of Trump’s elaborate schemes to dodge inheritance tax are not expected to be included, given the statute of limitations period would now have passed.
What’s the significance of the criminal probe? “The civil [investigation] is really concerned with, did you break rules?” NYU law professor Erin Murphy told The Washington Post. “And criminal is concerned with, were you trying to do wrong?”
There is nothing legally preventing Trump from running for president again in 2024, even if criminally convicted. However, given the need to show intent in most criminal proceedings, the opening of a criminal probe suggests strong documentary evidence has been found in the preceding civil investigation.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told Reuters, “I do believe that indictments will be issued shortly, and definitely before summer’s end.”
There are 29 pending lawsuits against Trump. These include civil claims by police officers and Democrat members of Congress over incitement of the Capitol riots; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s claim that Trump subverted the Voting Rights Act; a sexual harassment allegation made by Summer Zervos, a contestant on ‘The Apprentice’ in 2016; and other contractual disputes by businesspeople claiming they were misled or defrauded in their dealings with Trump Organization.
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