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Manhattan DA Taps Ex-Justice Department Official to ‘Pursue Justice Against Powerful People’ as Trump Probe Remains Active

Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo

Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo

As the Trump Organization’s trial draws to a close, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) announced his appointment of an ex-Department of Justice official to lead white collar investigations, and that reportedly includes an ongoing one against former President Donald Trump.

That official, Matthew Colangelo, has pursued two highly notable cases during Trump’s presidency, one against one of the former president’s actions in office and another involving his now-shuttered charity. Colangelo was part of the Justice Department team that stopped the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the decennial census — and also among the New York attorney general’s regulators who investigated the Trump Foundation, the ex-president’s former charity.

Both parts of Colangelo’s resume figure prominently in the biography disseminated by the district attorney’s office.

“Matthew Colangelo brings a wealth of economic justice experience combined with complex white-collar investigations, and he has the sound judgment and integrity needed to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power,” Bragg wrote in a statement.

The press release announcing Colangelo’s appointment does not emphasize the pending criminal investigation of Trump, focusing more broadly on Bragg’s priorities for white-collar crime. Those include tenants’ rights and worker protection, priorities that Colangelo also highlighted in his statement.

“Expanded enforcement of worker-protection and tenant-protection laws will make our communities safer for all New Yorkers and level the playing field for responsible employers and landlords,” said Colangelo, who once worked as a senior labor official in the Obama administration. “And assisting with the District Attorney’s focus on financial crimes will promote confidence in the legal system by making clear that the same rules apply to everyone — no matter how powerful.”

The announcement falls as jurors started their deliberations in the criminal prosecution of the Trump Organization. During closing arguments, prosecutors reportedly told jurors that the former president knew and signed off on every aspect of the company’s allegedly fraudulent conduct. Trump Organization’s ex-chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg testified against the company after signing a cooperation agreement accompanying their guilty plea.

Though Trump’s business empire and once-trusted loyalist have been prosecuted, the former president has not been accused of a crime.

Earlier this year, two of Bragg’s top prosecutors investigating Trump — Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz — resigned in protest because they said the district attorney did not want to press charges against the former president. According to a letter later obtained by The New York Times, Dunne said that both believed that they could prove “numerous felony violations” beyond a reasonable doubt.

Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, now a partner at Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC, noted that Trump’s star has fallen since that time.

“It appeared that when Dunne and Pomerantz resigned in protest that Alvin Bragg had concluded that he did not want to spend his political capital or his organization on a potential on Donald Trump,” Epner told Law&Crime. “Donald Trump is in a much weaker position today than he is a year ago.”

Now facing a special counsel probe over his handling of classified documents and the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Trump also faces possible criminal exposure in multiple jurisdictions, chief among them from the federal government and another 2020 election investigation from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D). Two federal judges rejected his claims of immunity for lawsuit accusing him of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6.

Dogged by mounting potential civil and criminal liabilities, Trump appears to be hemorrhaging political and media support after the Republicans’ lackluster performance in the midterm elections.

The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid that was once Trump’s friendly territory for support, savaged the 45th president’s announcement that he would run again in 2024 — burying the story on page 26.

In light of that turn of events, Bragg “may have more courage today than he did a year ago,” Epner added.

(Photo of Bragg via David Dee Delgado/Getty Images; Image of Colangelo via Justice Department)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."