Speed Reads

Trump Trouble

New York attorney general's criminal investigation is not good for Trump, but he was already in peril

New York Attorney General Letitia James' office said Tuesday night it is is "now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity," along with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

The state attorney general's office is continuing its civil investigation of former President Donald Trump's business, CNN reports, and a "couple of investigators" from James' office "steeped in knowledge about the Trump Organization" have joined Vance's already robust team, which has been looking into an array of possible crimes by Trump and his company since 2018.

"Previously, the danger posed by James' 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," The Washington Post notes. "Those cost him money but didn't threaten his liberty."

"This move signals, at a minimum, a new set of concerns" for Trump, CNN's Chris Cuomo said Tuesday night. "When things evolve from civil to criminal, it's not good. It is just as likely that the D.A.'s office reached out to the A.G. as vice versa, to say 'We'd like more resources on this, let's see if we can combine understanding.'" Yes, "it sounds like bad news for the Trump Organization," Van Jones agreed. James is a no-nonsense attorney general, he said, so she won't be doing this as "a stunt" or "for the headlines."

James' office informed Trump Organization lawyers in late April that its investigation had turned criminal, and "suggested that criminality could apply to actions by current and former company executives and employees if the investigation finds wrongdoing," the Post reports. It is rare for New York's attorney general and Manhattan's district attorney to collaborate.

James' new disclosure "is not necessarily an indication that she is planning to bring criminal charges" herself, The Associated Press reports. But state prosecutors "have a suite of powers called the Martin Act, which is just about the most extensive anti-fraud criminal law of any state in the country," legal analyst Neil Katyal told MSNBC, adding that these tools could help "flip" Trump insiders, notably finance chief Allen Weisselberg.