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Manhattan district attorney escalates Trump financial probe

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The Washington Post cites "people familiar with the matter" to report that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has now hired a forensic accounting firm to help in its long-running investigation of Donald Trump's past and present business dealings. A series of press investigations during the Trump administration have suggested that the Trump Organization has for decades engaged not just in suspicious tax dodges, but bank fraud and other financial fraud; Trump himself still remains uncharged for the "hush money" financial deals that sent his longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, to prison.

There seems to be no indication of precisely when the move was made, but it is treated as a new escalation; the use of outside experts to probe Trump company records may be a prelude to being able to use those experts as witnesses in upcoming legal actions. The timing certainly seems conspicuous. Trump will be leaving office in just three weeks, at which point he will lose the supposed presidential "immunity" from criminal charges that he has used to stonewall each investigation. He will be, as of the afternoon of Jan. 20, unquestionably indictable.

But there are three weeks between now and then, and Trump's bender of self-serving pardons of associates will no doubt be continuing. He has already pardoned each of those that lied to federal investigators about his campaign's efforts to utilize and benefit from the Russian government's espionage efforts aimed at sabotaging his opponent in his 2016 presidential bid. One presumes the next set of pardons will be broadly aimed at immunizing himself and his children from the financial crimes uncovered in those past press reports, but it will only work to block federal charges, not state ones. This is New York probing his business dealings, not the ever-compliant Department of Justice.

So we can read the tea leaves here, but ... hmm. It doesn't tell us much. It's possible District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office has hired new outside help because something of special note was found in the Trump Organization's finances; it's just as possible they were hired because the office's in-house experts simply lacked the capacity to follow each number and lead. It's possible this new escalation was intentionally leaked in order to signal that the investigation is in high gear and prepared for Trump's imminent loss of presidential privilege; it's very possible it was not supposed to leak as it gives the currently fuming and unstable Trump three weeks to mull whether there are any additional presidential powers that can be used in retribution.

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