Former US president Donald Trump has unleashed a vicious attack less than 24 hours after news emerged of a criminal probe into his family business.
Sharing a 900-word statement to his social media substitute, Trump said the investigation launched by New York state's attorney general is merely a "witch hunt".
"There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime," he said.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which has been investigating whether the New York City-based Trump Organisation falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits, said on Tuesday (local time) its probe was no longer purely civil.
"We are now actively investigating the Trump Organisation in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA," Fabien Levy, a spokesman for James said in a statement, using the abbreviation for "district attorney."
Trump on Wednesday (local time) assailed the investigation as politically motivated.
"The attorney general of New York literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me," the Republican former president said.
"These investigations have also been going on for years with members and associates of the Trump Organisation being viciously attacked, harassed, and threatened, in order to say anything bad about the 45th President of the United States.
"This would include having to make up false stories."
Trump mocked by former lawyer about impending jail
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is proving to be a valuable witness in the investigations.
He was previously jailed for illegally paying hush money from campaign finances to former porn star Stormy Daniels who claims she had a relationship with Trump in 2006 and 2007.
In his statement, Trump described Cohen as "a lying, discredited low life".
Cohen ultimately took the fall for the resulting cover-up during the election campaign, pleading guilty to tax evasion, misuse of campaign finances and lying to federal agents. He has since claimed the hush money was paid at the direction of the then presidential canddate.
Via his Twitter account, Cohen said Trump and his associates will "soon enough... be held responsible for their actions".
Accompanying his tweet was a doctored image of Trump behind bars.
In September 2017, Cohen claimed he would “take a bullet” for Trump – a move he said he later regretted.
James has said she opened her inquiry after Cohen testified before Congress that Trump's financial statements were manipulated to save money on loans or reduce his real estate taxes.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been investigating Trump’s pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years.
Vance’s office has said in court filings it was investigating "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct" at the Trump Organisation, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.
The latest announcement marked another escalation of the legal jeopardy Trump faces four months after leaving office, taking to three the number of known criminal investigations of the former Republican president.
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