A protester in a Donald Trump costume holds a sign reading "Don't be conned". At the DoubleTree Hotel in Reading Monday afternoon Feb. 6, 2017 where the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce held it's annual meeting with the Berks County Congressional Delegation (Congressmen Lloyd Smucker, Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan, and Charlie Dent.) Protestors gathered outside of the hotel, and later in a conference room where they invited the lawmakers to join them for a town hall meeting. None of the Congressmen took them up on the offer. Photo by Ben Hasty (Photo By Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

New York's two probes of Trump seem closer to criminal charges than ever

To be former President Donald Trump is to exist in a perpetual state of lawsuits and probes. That's just par for the course when you're the head of a multinational company that — allegedly! — plays things fast and loose in order to make the quickest buck possible. But in that nebulous world of complex legal machinations and risk, the longstanding New York-based investigation of Trump and his business interests represents an immediate, and acute, danger unlike anything in recent memory.

On Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance had empaneled a grand jury to hear evidence on whether or not to indict Trump and/or his immediate business associates on criminal charges. Vance's move suggests his more than two years of investigating the former president and his businesses has reached a critical phase, with criminal indictments a very real possibility moving forward.

News of the grand jury, which will reportedly sit for six months, three days a week, comes just days after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her parallel investigation into the Trump organization had dovetailed with Vance's probe.

"We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA," a James spokesperson told CNN last week. James's office will reportedly continue its civil investigation into the Trump businesses as well.

Vance's investigation into Trump and his associates seems largely predicated on the former president's finances, and was buoyed this past February by a Supreme Court decision awarding the Manhattan district attorney's office the right to investigate Trump's tax records. According to the Associated Press, which independently confirmed the Post's report, Vance's investigation has been circling of late around Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

"I think the Weisselberg involvement and the wild card of that makes the particular situation more real, because there's no sort of fluff and made-up fictional circumstances around the guy," one Trump adviser told Politico. "The fact that they're dealing with a numbers guy who just has plain details makes people more nervous."

"This is not a Michael Cohen situation," they added.

In characteristically understated and dignified terms, Trump himself responded to news of the newly seated grand jury by calling it "a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history."

"New York City and State are suffering the highest crime rates in their history, and instead of going after murderers, drug dealers, human traffickers, and others, they come after Donald Trump," he continued. "Interesting that today a poll came out indicating I’m far in the lead for the Republican presidential primary and the general election in 2024."