NEW YORK — New York state has opened an investigation into the real-estate dealings of President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, deepening the already intense legal scrutiny of the young administration.
The probe by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, one of the most outspoken critics of the president, is in a preliminary stage, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the investigation isn’t public. Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign from April to August last year, has owned property in the Hamptons and Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is also in the early stages of an investigation into Manafort’s transactions, a person familiar with that probe said. Representatives for Schneiderman and Vance declined to comment.
The inquiries by the two Democrats could pose added legal peril for Manafort if investigators find evidence of a crime. Unlike a probe by the US Justice Department and FBI, the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have no authority over New York state investigators scrutinizing whether Manafort broke state laws. Schneiderman is responsible for enforcing New York’s securities laws under the Martin Act, which gives him broad powers to pursue white-collar crime.
“If someone’s leaking information about an investigation, that’s a crime,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a phone call on Saturday.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported on the state investigations. The newspaper also said the Justice Department had requested Manafort’s banking records from Citizens Financial Group as part of its inquiry into whether Trump’s former campaign associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
Manafort stepped down amid sinking poll numbers and controversy over his past work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. He has offered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee about his ties to Russia and denied any improprieties in his contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries.
Manafort’s business dealings have featured prominently in discussions of links between the Trump campaign and Russia. He used Cypriot bank accounts to receive money from Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska and Ukrainian clients, according to court records and former executives at the bank where the accounts were kept. Manafort and Deripaska have said the accounts were opened for legitimate business transactions.
Two congressional committees, along with the FBI, are investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, was forced to resign after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with Russian officials, and Sessions recused himself from any decisions related to the Russia probes after he failed to reveal his talks with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing. FBI Director James Comey was fired last week by President Trump.