Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg is hiring a former senior Justice Department official who has a history of taking over Donald J. Trump and his family business as the agency looks to step up its investigation of the former president.
The official, Matthew Colangelo, who led the New York Attorney General’s civil investigation into Mr. former president.
The appointment marks the latest twist in a long-running investigation that has progressed in fits and starts in recent years. When Mr. Bragg took office in January, his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had ordered prosecutors to begin presenting evidence about Mr. Trump’s inflation of his wealth to a grand jury.
But Mr. Bragg was beginning to worry about the strength of the case. In February, when he told the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation, Mark F. Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, that he was unwilling to approve the charges, they resigned, clouding the investigation’s future.
Mr Bragg insisted it go through, and in recent months his accusers, led by the agency’s head of investigations Susan Hoffinger, have refocused their attention on a hush money payment made to a porn star who said she was having an affair with Mr. Bragg. Trump.
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Mr. Colangelo’s work at the New York attorney general’s office may also be relevant to his new job: Manhattan prosecutors have also investigated whether the former president illegally inflated the value of his assets, and the attorney New York General Letitia James looked at the same practices. In September, she filed a lawsuit accusing the former president of overvaluing his wealth by billions of dollars.
By then, Mr. Colangelo was working at the Justice Department, having been appointed acting associate attorney general when President Biden took office. In that position, the third most senior in the department, Mr. Colangelo, among other things, overseeing the Civil, Civil Rights, Antitrust and Tax departments.
He stepped aside when a permanent aide to the Attorney General, Vanita Gupta, was appointed, but continued to work as her deputy, supervising lawyers in those divisions.
Mr. Colangelo, 48, who also served in the Obama administration as a senior Labor Department official, will join the district attorney’s office as senior counsel. In addition to helping with his “most sensitive and high-profile white collar investigations,” he is expected to focus on housing and tenant protection and labor and worker protection, priorities for Mr. Bragg.
“Matthew Colangelo brings with him a wealth of economic justice experience, combined with complex white-collar investigations, and he has the sound judgment and integrity necessary to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power Bragg said in a statement confirming the lease.
US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement that he had relied on Mr. Colangelo’s “wise counsel and excellent judgment” from his first day in office.
Mr. Bragg and Mr. Colangelo overlapped while working at the New York Attorney General’s Office, where Mr. Bragg rose to become Deputy Chief Attorney General and Mr. Colangelo served as lead attorney for federal initiatives. In that role, Mr. Colangelo led dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration, including a successful challenge to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. He also oversaw an investigation into Mr. Trump’s charity, the Trump Foundation, which caused the organization’s dissolution and led that agency’s civil investigation into Mr. Trump’s financial practices, resulting in the September lawsuit.
Mr. Colangelo, who also spent seven years working on housing and employment issues at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement that he was “honored to reunite with District Attorney Bragg.”
“Increased enforcement of worker and tenant protection laws will make our communities safer for all New Yorkers and level the playing field for responsible employers and landlords,” said Mr. Colangelo. “And helping the prosecutor’s focus on financial crimes will promote confidence in the justice system by making it clear that the same rules apply to everyone – no matter how powerful.”
He joins the district attorney’s office as prosecutors look to jump-start their investigation into Mr Trump, which began in 2018 and has already led to the trial of the former president’s family business, in which the jury began its verdict on Monday. deliberate.
While Mr. Colangelo has a broad knowledge of the Trump Organization’s business practices and extensive litigation experience, he spent little time in the investigation on white-collar criminal charges. He has never been a line prosecutor, nor has he ever worked as a criminal defense attorney.
But Tom Perez, the former US Secretary of Labor, said Mr. Colangelo, whom he hired twice and who was his chief of staff in the Labor Department, was a quick study.
“Matthew is the perfect person for a job with this sensitivity because he’s unflappable, he’s brilliant at law, he has impeccable judgment and he’s humble enough to involve people who’ve been around before,” said Mr. . Perez in an interview.
Mr. Colangelo’s time in the Obama administration, his previous lawsuit against Mr. Trump’s administration, and his role in Ms. James’ investigation are likely to prompt protests from the former president, who has referred to the criminal and civil investigations as a united “witch”. hunt.” Some of Ms. James’ lawyers have been sent to the Manhattan district attorney’s office to work on the criminal investigation, and one of them, Gary Fishman, is on the trial team prosecuting the Trump Organization.
Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum reporting contributed.