Because Ms. James’s inquiry is civil, she cannot bring criminal charges. If she finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing, she can file a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, his organization or others involved in the business. In last month’s filing, Ms. James said that her lawyers had not yet reached a final decision on a lawsuit but argued that “the grounds for conducting the investigation are beyond reproach.”
On Monday, Ms. James released a letter in which Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, cut ties with the former president and essentially retracted a decade’s worth of his financial statements. Those financial statements, which include various disclaimers noting that they are unaudited, are central to both the civil and criminal investigations into Mr. Trump.
The criminal investigation, which is similarly focused on whether Mr. Trump used those statements to mislead his lenders about the value of his hotels, golf clubs and other properties, is being led by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who inherited it when he took office in January.
Last year, under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Manhattan prosecutors separately indicted the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, accusing them of conducting a yearslong scheme to evade taxes by compensating employees with special benefits such as apartment rentals and luxury cars.
Understand the New York A.G.’s Trump Inquiry
An empire under scrutiny. The New York State attorney general is currently conducting a civil investigation into former president Donald Trump’s business practices. Here’s what to know:
Mr. Trump’s lawyers said that the criminal inquiry, which also involves investigators from Ms. James’s office, would improperly benefit if the attorney general’s office questioned Mr. Trump and his children in the civil inquiry.
They said that Ms. James would be able to obtain information valuable to the criminal investigation without having to provide the family members the immunity that they would receive were they to testify in front of a criminal grand jury. (Under New York law, witnesses who appear before the grand jury receive immunity from prosecution on the subject of their testimony.)
After maintaining a neutral posture during the hearing, Judge Engoron was blunt in his ruling. Addressing the argument that Ms. James was improperly using the civil investigation to bolster the criminal inquiry, he noted that the Trumps had not been asked to appear before a grand jury.