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Prosecutors empanel second grand jury in case against Trump Organization

As a second grand jury gets to work in the investigation into the Trump Organization, the former president's legal troubles appear to be getting worse.

Donald Trump was already facing a criminal inquiry, multiple civil suits, and criminal charges against his private business when the former president confronted another unwelcome headline yesterday about the probe into the Trump Organization. NBC News reported:

A second grand jury has been empaneled in New York in an investigation about former President Donald Trump and his business, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.... Trump has not been charged with any crime.

To contextualize this a bit, when prosecutors in Manhattan empaneled their first grand jury, it was roughly five weeks later when the probe led to criminal tax-fraud charges against the former president's business and its chief financial officer.

Members of that grand jury served their six-month term, and as NBC News' report added, a new group of grand jurors will sit and hear evidence. In fact, by all accounts, their service is already underway.

But what makes this development notable is not just the existence of a new grand jury, it's also the area of scrutiny the grand jury appears to be examining. The Washington Post reported yesterday that a source familiar with the matter "said the second grand jury was expected to examine how former president Donald Trump's company valued its assets."

In other words, while the first grand jury in Manhattan heard evidence related to taxes and schemes to evade IRS scrutiny, this new grand jury, if the Post's reporting is correct, is examining a separate area of inquiry.

Questions about how Trump's operation valued its assets appear to be getting louder, but they're not altogether new. The New York Times reported a few weeks ago that the district attorney's office in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., recently subpoenaed records from the former president's local golf course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, based on suspicions that the Trump Organization may have "misled local officials about the property's value to reduce its taxes."

What's more, Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, raised related allegations in 2019 about Trump's operation manipulating asset values to deceive financial institutions. (The story about the Seven Springs estate produced one of my favorite charts in recent memory.)

In case this weren't quite enough, the Post updated its report hours after it was first published online, noting that prosecutors have also "recently inquired about the initiation fees Trump golf courses charged new members, the person said, and Trump's role in setting those fees for individual customers. Trump often cited his clubs' initiation fees in the statements he sent potential lenders, as a sign of the courses' financial health."

All of which suggests the former president's legal headaches are unlikely to go away anytime soon.