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Grand Jury Seated In Manhattan DA's Investigation Of Trump's Business Dealings

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- There's been a significant step forward in the criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.

As Laura Podesta explains, it's one that could lead to an indictment.

A two year investigation into the Trump organization may be advancing into a new phase. A source confirms to CBS News the Manhattan district attorney's office is convening a special grand jury to possibly consider criminal charges against top executives at former President Donald Trump's company.

A key target of the investigation is longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

"There is no transaction financially that did not go through Allen Weisselberg," said legal analyst Rikki Klieman.

CBS News has learned investigators are looking at the legality of tuition payments Weisselberg made to to his grandchildren's New York private school. His former daughter-in-law says some of the checks were signed by Weisselberg or Donald Trump.

Among the issues Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr. is investigating is possible hush payments made on behalf of Trump to silence women who've claimed to have had affairs with him, and potential property overvaluations.

"Possible charges of bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud. This is a problem for Donald Trump if Allen Weisselberg becomes a witness against him," Klieman siad.

Those real estate accusations are something Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen alleged two years ago.

"To your knowledge, did the president or his company ever inflate assets or revenues," former Rep. William Lacy Clay asked at the time.

"Yes," Cohen said.

"And was that done with the president's knowledge or direction?" Clay asked.

"Everything was done with the knowledge and at the direction of Mr. Trump," Cohen said.

In a statement, Trump called the investigation purely political, and driven by highly partisan Democrat prosecutors.

The new grand jury could eventually be asked to consider returning indictments. While working on that case, it also will be hearing other matters. The grand jury will meet three days a week for six months, according to the Washington Post.

Attorney General Letitia James said last week that she assigned two lawyers to work with Vance's office on the probe after her civil investigation into Trump evolved into a criminal matter.

James, a Democrat, said her office also is continuing its civil investigation into Trump. She did not say what prompted her office to expand its investigation into a criminal probe.

In recent months, Vance hired former mafia prosecutor Mark Pomerantz to help run the investigation and has been interviewing witnesses, including Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Vance declined to run for reelection and will leave office at the end of the year, meaning the Trump case is likely to pass to his successor in some form. An election next month is all but certain to determine who that will be.

Trump said in a statement last week that he's being "unfairly attacked and abused by a corrupt political system." He contends the investigations are part of a Democratic plot to silence his voters and block him from running for president again.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court buoyed Vance's investigation by clearing the way for the prosecutor to enforce a subpoena on Trump's accounting firm and obtain eight years of tax returns and related documents for the former president, the Trump Organization and other Trump entities.

The documents are protected by grand jury secrecy rules and are not expected to be made public.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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