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Trump May Face Charges As States Broaden Criminal Investigations

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now that he's out of office, Donald Trump could find himself facing criminal charges in several cases. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is broadening an ongoing investigation of Trump with a focus on potential financial crimes in Trump's many business ventures, and prosecutors in Georgia have also opened a criminal investigation. This one's centered on that now-infamous phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the call in which Trump asked Raffensperger to find enough votes to reverse his election loss in Georgia.

Andrea Bernstein from member station WNYC in New York has been following these stories and joins us now. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey. Great to talk to you.

MARTIN: So tell us about New York. What do we know about those investigations looking into Trump's businesses?

BERNSTEIN: So the most significant case, looking into Trump's business right now, the most potentially serious one, is the Manhattan DA's case. This is the case where the DA has been trying to get Trump's tax returns for years now, and even though that case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time, from what we know, the investigation is pretty far along. Also, because Trump has been trying to block Vance from getting his records, there's a great deal that is in the public record.

So we know the DA is looking at Trump, his family and his business for possible bank, insurance or tax fraud, including felonies that could carry significant prison time. So though the Supreme Court ruled seven to two against Trump the first time, the former president came back with a new claim. But most experts think that, eventually, Vance will get the records he's seeking, and if that happens and if Vance decides he believes crimes were committed, there could be indictments this year.

MARTIN: That's New York. What about down south in Georgia? What's happening there with his investigations?

BERNSTEIN: We just learned this week that Georgia prosecutors are looking into whether Trump violated election statutes when he engaged in an all-out campaign to change the results in Georgia. So although that case has just begun, it actually could proceed pretty quickly because it would be more straightforward than the complex financial crimes the Manhattan DA is looking into. Then the New York attorney general is looking into whether Trump failed to pay proper New York state taxes. In addition, the District of Columbia AG is looking into whether Trump's inaugural committee violated charities laws when it paid hefty sums to Trump's hotel. And there are multiple civil suits, so there's a lot of litigation.

MARTIN: That is a lot of litigation. Now that Trump is no longer a sitting president, does that change the speed of these investigations or maybe the course they take?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. So in several of the cases, he's been arguing so far that his status as president means he deserves special treatment, that he can withhold records, testimony and generally stymie the probes. And in some of the investigations, the U.S. Department of Justice even intervened, even though the matter was over Trump's private actions. That's why many of these cases have taken so long, but now Trump doesn't have those extra tools. He's just an ordinary citizen. So while he can and he is arguing that the investigations are politically motivated, he has to defend himself now like everyone else.

MARTIN: Some of Trump's closest allies are also being investigated. I'm thinking of Rudy Giuliani. What's the status of that?

BERNSTEIN: Right. Yeah. So we just learned this week this is a case that traces back to the events surrounding Trump's first impeachment, when Giuliani was trying to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Prosecutors have been examining whether, when Giuliani did that, he was breaking laws by representing Ukrainian business interests without declaring that. We just learned from The New York Times that federal prosecutors in New York have been seeking Giuliani's electronic records since last summer. And if that case proceeds, we could learn more not only about Giuliani but also about what Trump knew about all of this.

MARTIN: WNYC's Andrea Bernstein, thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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