Former US president Donald Trump has responded to the news that his business, the Trump Organisation, is under criminal investigation.
"We have informed the Trump Organisation that our investigation into the company is no longer purely civil in nature," a spokesman for New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a brief statement yesterday.
"We are now actively investigating the Trump Organisation in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan District Attorney. We have no additional comment at this time."
James' office has been investigating whether the former president's business engaged in fraudulent practices by inflating or lowering the values of its properties to obtain better loans and tax breaks.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has also been investigating Trump's financial affairs. In February, the US Supreme Court rejected Trump's effort to prevent Vance's office from obtaining his tax records.
In court documents, the DA's office has said it is investigating possible "extensive and protracted criminal conduct".
That was the context behind a lengthy statement Trump issued on Wednesday afternoon, calling the investigations "corrupt". All emphasis is his.
"I have just learned, through leaks in the mainstream media, that after being under investigation from the time I came down the escalator five-and-a-half years ago, including the fake Russia Russia Russia Hoax, the two-year $48 million No Collusion Mueller Witch Hunt, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2 and others, that the Democrat New York Attorney General has 'informed' my organisation that their 'investigation' is no longer just a civil matter but also potentially a 'criminal' investigation working with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office," Trump said.
"There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime. But make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here. The Attorney General of New York literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me. She said that if elected, she would use her office to look into 'every aspect' of my real estate dealings. She swore that she would 'definitely sue' me. She boasted on video that she would be, and I quote, 'a real pain in the ass'.
"She declared, 'Just wait until I'm in the attorney general's office,' and, 'I've got my eyes on Trump Tower.' She also promised that, if elected, she would 'join with law enforcement and other attorney generals across this nation in removing this president from office,' and, 'it's important that everyone understand that the days of Donald Trump are coming to an end'.
"The Attorney General made each of these statements, not after having had an opportunity to actually look at the facts, but BEFORE she was even elected, BEFORE she had seen even a shred of evidence. This is something that happens in failed third world countries, not the United States.
"If you can run for a prosecutor's office pledging to take out your enemies, and be elected to that job by partisan voters who wish to enact political retribution, then we are no longer a free constitutional democracy."
An ironic quote, perhaps, coming from Donald "lock her up" Trump. But he has a point.
In the United States, most state attorneys general are directly elected by the public. That means they run political campaigns and make all sorts of promises. And while James was running to become New York's attorney general, she did promise to investigate Trump and his business interests.
This was unquestionably improper, as law professor Rebecca Roiphe – a former Manhattan assistant district attorney – told the Washington Post yesterday.
"Letitia James has undermined her own credibility in this investigation," said Roiphe.
"These campaign statements were wildly inappropriate and cast a cloud over her investigation. So, one question is whether her involvement in the criminal investigation will taint the case, or at least provide Trump and his associates with ammunition to undermine its legitimacy if he is ultimately charged with a crime."
Back to Trump's statement. Oh yes, there's more.
"Likewise, the District Attorney's office has been going after me for years based on a lying, discredited low-life, who was not listened to or given credibility by other prosecutorial offices, and sentenced to three years in prison for lying and other events unrelated to me," he said.
"These investigations have also been going on for years with members and associates of the Trump Organisation being viciously attacked, harassed and threatened in order to say anything bad about the 45th president of the United States. This would include having to make up false stories.
"Numerous documents, all prepared by large and prestigious law an accounting firms, have been examined, and many hours of testimony have been taken from many people, some of whom I have not seen in years."
The "low-life" Trump referred to is his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who was indeed sentenced to three years in prison in 2018. To quote the judge, Cohen was guilty of a "veritable smorgasbord of criminal conduct", including tax violations, lying to Congress, lying to banks and campaign finance violations.
Trump's assertion that Cohen's crimes were "unrelated" to him is false.
The campaign finance charges involved US$130,000 in hush money Cohen paid to an adult film actress, Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet about an extramarital affair with Trump before the 2016 election.
He lied to Congress about efforts to build a Trump real estate project in Moscow, saying it had been abandoned before Trump became a political candidate.
There is no evidence that prosecutors have behaved improperly towards members of the Trump Organisation, or that witnesses have "made up false stories". Perhaps the former president is talking about Vance's efforts to "flip" the organisation's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Let's continue with the statement.
"These Democrat offices are consumed with this political and partisan Witch Hunt at a time when crime is up big in New York City, shootings are up 97 per cent, murders are up 45 per cent, a rate not seen in 40 years, drugs and criminals are pouring into our country in record numbers from our now unprotected Southern Border, and people are fleeing New York for other much safer locations to live," said Trump.
"But the District Attorney and Attorney General are possessed, at an unprecedented level, with destroying the political fortunes of President Donald J. Trump and the almost 75 million people who voted for him, by far the highest number ever received by a sitting president.
"That is what these investigations are all about – a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of the United States. Working in conjunction with Washington, these Democrats want to silence and cancel millions of voters because they don't want 'Trump' to run again."
I do not know why he put "Trump" in quotation marks.
Trump is broadly correct about the level of crime in New York City, which has been increasing. His assertions about the US border with Mexico are not nearly as well supported, though there has been a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border since Joe Biden took office.
It's true that Trump got more votes than any other sitting president in US history. His opponent, Biden, got 81 million, and won the popular vote by a margin of about seven million.
"Our movement, which started with the Great Election Win of 2016, is perhaps the biggest and most powerful in the history of the Country," he continued.
"But the Democrats want to cancel the Make America Great Again movement, not by Making America First, but by Making America Last.
"No president has been treated the way I have. With all of the crime and corruption you read about with others, nothing happens, they only go after Donald Trump. After prosecutorial efforts the likes of which nobody has ever seen before, they failed to stop me in Washington, so they turned it over to New York to do their dirty work.
"This is what I have been going through for years. It's a very sad and dangerous tale for our Country, but it is what it is, and we will overcome together. I have built a great company, employed thousands of people, and all I do is get unfairly attacked and abused by a corrupt political system.
"It would be so wonderful if the effort used against President Donald J. Trump, who lowered taxes and regulations, rebuilt our military, took care of our Veterans, created Space Force, fixed our border, produced our vaccine in record-setting time (years ahead of what was anticipated), and made our Country great and respected again, and so much more, would be focused on the ever more dangerous sidewalks and streets of New York.
"If these prosecutors focused on real issues, crime would be obliterated, and New York would be great and free again!"