Manhattan DA’s Case Against Trump Heats Up After Stalling Out

District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference to discuss the charges against Steve Bannon in New York on September 8, 2022. - Bannon, 68, Donald Trump's former advisor, was indicted on state charges of m... District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference to discuss the charges against Steve Bannon in New York on September 8, 2022. - Bannon, 68, Donald Trump's former advisor, was indicted on state charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud related to an alleged online scheme to raise money for the construction of the US-Mexico border wall. (Photo by Alex Kent / AFP) (Photo by ALEX KENT/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The Manhattan district attorney’s office has hired a former senior Justice Department official to join the office’s criminal probe into former president Donald Trump. 

The new hire is another sign that District Attorney Alvin Bragg is taking decisive action to kickstart the inquiry that had previously seemed stalled out. What exactly has prompted the rejuvenation of the DA’s investigation remains unclear.

The Manhattan DA’s inquiries into Trump began in 2018 and one layer of the investigation, focused on the Trump family business and potential tax fraud, has already gone to trial. Prosecutors and the Trump Organization’s lawyers wrapped up their closing arguments in that case last week and the jury began deliberations on Monday. 

Other parts of the DA’s inquiries into Trump stalled after Bragg took over for his predecessor Cyrus Vance Jr., who’d pushed to indict the former president before leaving office. A month after Bragg joined the department, prosecutors Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne pressed him to continue Vance’s work and bring evidence against Trump for inflating his business value before a grand jury. When the newly-inaugurated district attorney told them that he wasn’t prepared to authorize charges because he wasn’t convinced of Trump’s intent, the prosecutors resigned.

“I believe that your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and on the existing record, is misguided and completely contrary to the public interest,” Pomerantz wrote in his resignation letter. “I therefore cannot continue in my current position.”

But things appeared to heat up last month after the New York Times reported that Bragg was reexamining hush money payments paid to adult film star and Trump’s (alleged) former mistress Stormy Daniels. This all runs parallel to the $250 million lawsuit, alleging decades of fraud and asset inflation, New York attorney general Letitia James filed against Trump and his children back in September.

The new DA official, Matthew Colangelo, will serve as a senior counsel in Bragg’s ongoing investigation into whether Trump inflated the value of his assets to mislead lenders for his business ventures. 

Colangelo’s appointment adds momentum to the DA’s inquiries: He previously served as the acting associate attorney general at the Justice Department before civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta permanently took over the role.

He also overlapped with Bragg at the New York attorney general’s office, where he oversaw dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration as chief counsel for federal initiatives—including a suit that led to the dissolution of the Trump Foundation when they found the former president had used the charity to coordinate with his 2016 campaign.

“Matthew Colangelo brings a wealth of economic justice experience combined with complex white-collar investigations, and he has the sound judgment and integrity needed to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power,” Bragg said in a statement to the Times.

It’s unclear why Bragg is pushing the Trump probe now, but the timing couldn’t be worse for Trump: The Justice Department also hired a special counsel straight from the Hague to oversee and weigh charges in two of the department’s investigations into the former president, mere days after Trump announced his 2024 run.

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