New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reportedly hired a prosecutor to examine the activities of the Trump administration.
Schneiderman has tapped public-corruption expert Howard McMaster from the office of former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, The Wall Street Journal reported. Bharara was fired by Trump last week even though he was in the middle of a number of investigations, including one allegedly involving stock trades by Trump’s Health And Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer confirmed McMaster’s hiring, and told the Journal that McMaster will work on a range of “civil and criminal investigations ... including public corruption,” and potentially litigation against the Trump administration.
Last month, at a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Schneiderman revealed that his office was discussing strategies and doing research to determine what kind of action could be taken to address concerns about Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and possible violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits anyone holding a federal “office” from accepting payments from foreign entities.
“Certainly, my office is looking at anything that’s passed on to us and doing our own research,” Schneiderman said. “We’ve had meetings with people discussing these matters already.” But, he added that it was “premature to say one way or another how this is going to proceed.”
Schneiderman emphasized that it is “not sustainable” for Trump to “refuse to divest from all of his vast holdings and refuse to disclose what those holdings are.” Schneiderman called Trump’s situation “so far beyond the bounds of anything that anyone has ever attempted that people are having trouble coming up with a clear legal strategy to address it.”
Schneiderman has successfully targeted Trump operations in the past. He filed a lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University, an expensive certificate program that was supposed to impart Trump’s business acumen but had no license to function as a school and was the target of scores of complaints. Shortly after his election, Trump agreed to pay $25 million in fines and restitution to settle the state’s case and two class action suits against the operation.
The nonprofit ethics watchdog Free Speech for People wrote a letter to Schneiderman last month pointing out past illegal activities involving the president’s company, and called on him to revoke a business charter that allows the Trump Organization to operate in New York. A subsequent letter last week asked the attorney general to investigate dealings by the Trump Organization in Baku, Azerbaijan, that “may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Last week Schneiderman joined Washington state’s revised lawsuit against Trump’s latest travel ban.