By Samuel Chamberlain, ,
Published August 22, 2018
New York state investigators have issued a subpoena to President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, as part of their investigation of the Trump Foundation, Fox News confirmed Wednesday.
James Gazzale, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, confirmed to Fox News that Cohen was subpoenaed "for relevant information in light of the public disclosures made yesterday," but declined to comment further on the investigation. The subpoena was first reported by The Associated Press.
Investigators have been looking into whether Trump or his eponymous charity broke state law or lied about their tax liability. If evidence of alleged crimes is found, the matter could be referred to prosecutors, who could pursue criminal charges and seek the release of Trump's tax returns. Anyone charged with a state crime in relation to the investigation could not be pardoned by the president.
The subpoena was issued one day after Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws and claimed he did so at the behest of then-candidate Trump. Cohen admitted to arranging hush-money payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal so that they would keep quiet about claims they had affairs with Trump. The man often described as Trump's "fixer" said in court that the payments were meant to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
In June, New York's acting attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation over alleged illegal conduct and “unlawful political coordination” to benefit personal and business interests.
The suit claimed that Trump used the foundation’s charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, promote Trump brand hotels and businesses, and purchase personal items -- including a 6-foot portrait of himself that cost $10,000. The suit also claimed that the foundation "illegally provided extensive support to his 2016 presidential campaign by using the Trump Foundation’s name and funds it raised from the public to promote his campaign for presidency."
As part of the suit, the New York Attorney General's office initiated a proceeding to dissolve the foundation under court supervision and obtain restitution of $2.8 million, among additional penalties.
The suit also sought to ban President Trump from future service as a director of a New York non-profit for 10 years and bar his three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, from service for one year.
When the lawsuit initially was filed, President Trump accused "sleazy New York Democrats" of "doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that ... gave out to charity more money than it took in ... I won’t settle this case!"
A spokesman for the Trump Foundation called the suit "politics at its very worst."
Fox News' Whitney Ksiazek, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.