New York Attorney General Joins Criminal Investigation into Donald Trump's Company

New York Attorney General Letitia James says her office has joined the Manhattan District Attorney's criminal investigation into the former president's company

Donald Trump, Letitia James
Donald Trump (left), Letitia James. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty; Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

The New York attorney general's ongoing investigation into the Trump Organization has expanded into criminal territory, with CNN reporting on Tuesday that Attorney General Letitia James has joined the Manhattan district attorney's office in its criminal investigation of the former president's business.

This means that the attorney general's office will continue to pursue its civil investigation into the Trump Organization, but will also join the Manhattan district attorney's office in its own probe into whether the company misled lenders and insurance companies about the value of its properties and if it paid the appropriate amount in taxes.

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James confirmed that its investigation had expanded beyond a civil case.

"We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature," press secretary Fabien Levy said. "We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA. We have no additional comment at this time."

While a civil case could result in a lawsuit or fines, a criminal investigation could result in criminal charges.

A Trump Organization spokesperson would not comment on the record when reached by PEOPLE.

Donald Trump released an angry, lengthy statement Wednesday morning criticizing investigators, rehashing familiar reactions to any negative news about him by calling the criminal probe "a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of the United States."

James opened the investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization in 2019, after his former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that the president's annual financial statements inflated the values of his assets — an effort to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage — while deflating the value of other assets to reduce real estate taxes.

This latest development comes months after James filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to provide her office with documents and testimony from multiple witnesses, including the president's son, Eric Trump.

As executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Eric, 36, "was intimately involved in one or more transactions under review," James' motion states.

In September 2020, New York state Supreme Court Judge Arthur F. Engoron ordered Eric, one of the president's five children, to testify under oath as part of that investigation.

In a statement released after the ruling was announced, Eric said he would sit for the deposition, but called the case a "political vendetta" and an attempt to interfere with the upcoming election.

"The New York Attorney General has called my father an 'illegitimate' president and pledged to take him down while she was running for office," he said. "Her actions since demonstrate a continued political vendetta and attempt to interfere with the upcoming election. That said, since I previously agreed to appear for an interview, I will do so as scheduled."

The DA's investigation into Trump — led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. — scored a major legal victory in February, when the the Supreme Court ruled that it could review the former president's tax returns and present them to a grand jury.

A central figure in the that investigation is Trump's long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. The New York Times reported that prosecutors are seeking Weisselberg's cooperation, and recently subpoenaed records from his bank and the private school in Manhattan his grandchildren attended.

In addition to Eric Trump and Weisselberg, CNN reports that Trump's longtime tax attorney Sheri Dillon was also deposed in the case, adding that "the state says she declined to answer certain questions."

Vanity Fair reports that the New York investigations are just one of many legal cases facing Trump, 74, since he lost reelection in November and left office in January. The former president is additionally facing some 29 lawsuits and other investigations looking into his attempt to overturn the 2020 election in his favor.

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