New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated Wednesday that he is willing to authorize a criminal investigation of the Trump Foundation, though it was not clear state prosecutors are ready to pursue one due to their ongoing civil lawsuit against the organization.
“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the state stands ready to provide the Attorney General with the appropriate criminal referral on this matter if and when she asks for it,” Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, said in a statement.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office in June filed a civil lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s charitable foundation and its directors, alleging a pattern of illegal conduct that included unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign. At the time the lawsuit was filed, Underwood sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission asking those agencies to investigate possible violations of federal law.
Any criminal action taken while the civil case proceeds, however, would likely lead to a stay of the civil action, meaning the attorney general’s office is unlikely to seek a criminal referral until its civil case has progressed.
The attorney general’s office suggested Wednesday that it wasn’t immediately prepared to seek a criminal referral.
“As our lawsuit against the Trump Foundation illustrates, we intend to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for all violations of state law,” Amy Spitalnick, the spokesperson for the New York Attorney General, told CNN. “We continue to evaluate the evidence to determine what additional actions may be warranted, and will seek a criminal referral from the appropriate state agency as necessary. We’ve already referred apparent violations of federal law to the IRS and FEC.”
The Cuomo administration’s offer of a criminal referral came after Zephyr Teachout, a Democratic candidate for attorney general who was Cuomo’s gubernatorial primary opponent in 2014, publicly demanded that Cuomo issue such a referral to Underwood’s office.