Donald Trump’s legal difficulties have intensified after New York’s attorney general announced she is pursuing a criminal investigation into the former US president’s businesses.
"We have informed the Trump Organisation that our investigation into the organisation is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organisation in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA," a spokesman for attorney general Letitia James said late on Tuesday.
The district attorney for Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, has already been working on an investigation into Mr Trump's tax affairs, securing access to eight years of the former president's tax records last year despite an appeal by Mr Trump to the US supreme court. It is believed that the attorney general's criminal inquiry is looking into Mr Trump's business affairs and those of the Trump Organisation, which is based primarily in New York.
In a statement, Mr Trump denounced the attorney general’s inquiry as “an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime” and 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,” he said.
Mr Trump was the first president in decades not to release his tax returns while in office. This week, president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris released their tax returns publicly. Mr Biden and his wife Jill's income was $607,336 (about €499,000) last year and they paid $157,414 in federal income tax. It represents a drop from their earnings the previous year of $985,000, which was attributable in the most part to speeches and book sales.
Ms Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, who is on leave from his work at law firm DLA Piper, earned just under $1.7 million last year and paid $621,893 in tax.
But despite the new legal threat to Mr Trump, his influence continues to be strong in the Republican Party. In an indication of his continued hold over Republican members of Congress, most Republicans were expected to oppose the establishment of a commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol in a vote in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday.
It follows a decision by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy not to back the commission on Tuesday.
The bipartisan commission would have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but Mr McCarthy has said he wants the scope of the investigation to include inquiries into actions by left-wing demonstrators last year.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Republican John Katko, who negotiated the framework of the Bill for the commission on the part of his party, urged his House colleagues to support it, describing the proposal as "fair and necessary legislation".
Democrat Peter Meijer said that the vote should not be a partisan issue. "A violent mob breached this building," he said on the House floor, as he called on representatives from both parties to back the Bill.
The January 6th attack on the Capitol left five people dead and more than 100 injured. Mr Trump was impeached for his role in inciting the riot.
While the legislation to establish the commission was expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled House on Wednesday night, its passage in the Senate looked uncertain after top Republican Mitch McConnell said he would not endorse it.
“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6th,” he announced.