The Trump Organization is being investigated in a "criminal capacity," the New York state attorney general's office said Tuesday, as prosecutors advance their probe into former President Donald Trump's business dealings.
Since leaving the White House in January, the former businessman and reality TV star retains a strong hold on many Republican voters — despite losing his powerful social-media megaphones of Twitter and Facebook.
He denies wrongdoing, and has described a parallel criminal investigation by Manhattan's district attorney as "a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country."
The attorneys general in both Manhattan and New York state are Democrats.
"We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature," said a spokesman for the state's attorney general Letitia James.
"We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA," spokesman Fabien Levy said.
The organization is the holding company for hundreds of Trump entities, ranging from hotels to golf courses.
James's office has otherwise been investigating allegations of bank fraud and insurance fraud through civil proceedings.
Trump's son, Eric Trump, has said that James "detests my father" and "campaigned on taking my father down."
Eric Trump texted The Washington Post a video montage of James speeches, largely from her 2018 campaign, in which she criticized Trump and promised to challenge his policies and investigate his business.
One clip shows James describing Trump as an "illegitimate president." Another, from James' campaign, shows her saying, "We’re going to definitely sue him. … He’s going to know my name personally."
Trump's daughter, Ivanka, has called out New York's efforts a "fishing expedition" being conducted as "part of a continued political vendetta."
After the Supreme Court allowed the release of Trump's tax returns to N.Y. prosecutors in February, the former president commented.
"The Supreme Court never should have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did," Trump said in the statement, reported by CNN.
"This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo."
The district attorney's investigation initially focused on hush payments made to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump, but had expanded to allegations of tax evasion, and insurance and bank fraud.
Two assistant attorneys general will join the district attorney's efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter cited in The New York Times, as James's office continues its civil inquiry.
Bolstering its legal team, the Trump Organization in early April hired a veteran criminal defense attorney, 84-year-old Ronald Fischetti.
This report contains material from AFP.
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