Trump Org. Criminal Probe—What We Know About Parallel Investigations Into Finances

The pressure is mounting on Donald Trump after the New York attorney general's office confirmed that it was widening its probe into the former president's businesses to examine possible criminal wrongdoings.

Fabien Levy, press secretary to New York Attorney General Letitia James, told CNN on Tuesday the probe into the Trump Organization was "no longer purely civil in nature" and would be running alongside another investigation into alleged criminal conduct at the organization by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

"We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA," James' office said in a statement. "We have no additional comment."

Vance's office has been looking into allegations of tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records against the Trump Organization. The criminal investigation focuses on whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of some New York properties to obtain better loans from banks, and understated their value to get property tax breaks. James' civil investigation into the business dealings of the former president and the Trump Organization, which is continuing in parallel to the criminal investigation, has focused on similar matters.

What does this mean?

The announcement means that James' office is no longer just a civil probe, which can result in a lawsuit or fines. A civil case usually involves disputes between persons or organizations over money or personal injury.

Penalties in civil cases usually amount to fines or other financial payments from implicated parties.

In a criminal case, a crime has allegedly being committed against an individual, the state, or society as a whole. These cases are prosecuted in criminal courts and can result in judicial sentences.

The New York Times has reported that James' office will not be conducting its own criminal investigation. In effect, elements that have been collected by the civil probe can now be used as part of the criminal investigation, namely the one led by Vance. James will still continue her civil inquiry.

James' office did not reveal what specific information had led to the collaboration with the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Trump has called the inquiries into his financial dealings a politically motivated "witch hunt" against him.

James began the investigation in 2019 after Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that he had inflated the value of assets to get better loans from banks and undervalued them to reduce his tax bills.

The civil investigation has reportedly been focusing on four of Trump Organization properties: the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, 40 Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, and the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, New York.

The former president's son, Eric Trump, was questioned under oath in October 2020 as part of the civil investigation.

CNN reported that investigators with the New York attorney general's office are cooperating with Vance's probe because the inquiries have overlapped. For instance, according to the New York Times, both offices have been investigating the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County.

The Manhattan district attorney's investigation was also launched in 2019.

The office has suggested in the past that it was investigating Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud but it has been mostly silent, citing grand-jury secrecy rules. CNN has reported that the probe does include examining millions of pages of documents that include Trump's tax returns.

Vance's office has reportedly focused its investigation on the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. He was also subpoenaed in James' civil investigation and testified twice in 2020, according to the Associated Press.

It is unclear if Trump is personally implicated in any of the allegations or if he is legally responsible for the organization.

If Trump does end up being charged over any allegation, he will not be protected from prosecution now that he has left the White House.

There could also be implications for his hopes of running for president again.

Trump, who still falsely maintains he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden because of widespread voter fraud, has frequently hinted that he may run for office in 2024.

Cohen, a former ally of Trump, is currently serving a three-year sentence under home confinement after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws relating to hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, to keep an alleged affair between her and Trump a secret ahead of the 2016 election.

"As more documents are reviewed by the NYAG and NYDA, it appears that the troubles for Donald Trump just keep on coming! Soon enough, Donald and Associates will be held responsible for their actions," Cohen tweeted on Tuesday.

Separately, Trump himself is also facing a criminal investigation by a prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, over his alleged attempts to influence the state's 2020 election results.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is looking into a recorded conversation between Trump and Georgia's secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, in which he appeared to ask him to overturn the election results based on unfounded voter fraud claims and help him "find 11,780 votes."

The Trump Organization has been contacted for comment.

Trump Organization
Donald Trump looks on during an event recognizing the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride in the East Room of the White House, April 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The New York Attorney General's Office said the probe into the Trump Organization was "no longer purely civil." Drew Angerer/Getty Images