Manhattan DA hires top ex-DOJ official who went after Trump to lead renewed investigation

Matthew Colangelo previously worked on the New York attorney general’s investigation into the former president

Published December 5, 2022 2:18PM (EST)

Former President Donald Trump | The Justice Department building (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump | The Justice Department building (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has hired a former senior Justice Department official to lead the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump and his family company.

Matthew Colangelo will likely lead the district attorney's criminal investigation into Trump, according to reporting from The New York Times. Colangelo previously worked in the Obama administration as a senior Labor Department official and also led the New York attorney general's civil inquiry into Trump before joining the Justice Department as third in command. His former work may guide his work in the criminal investigation that he is slated to join. 

Prosecutors in New York have been focusing on whether Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets and in recent months, have been looking into whether he paid off a porn star who alleged she had an affair with the former president. 

Colangelo is expected to join the district attorney's office as senior counsel in order to help with its "most sensitive and high-profile white-collar investigations." He will also focus on his top priorities which include housing and tenant protection and labor and worker protection.

"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 said in a statement confirming the hiring of Colangelo.

Attorney General Merrick Garland added in a statement that since his first day in office, he has relied on Colangelo's "wise counsel and excellent judgment."

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Colangelo and Bragg previously worked together in the New York attorney general's office where Colangelo led several lawsuits against the Trump administration. He also oversaw the investigation into the Trump Foundation that led to the dissolution of the former president's charity, leading the civil inquiry office to look further into his financial practices, ultimately resulting in the September lawsuit from Attorney General Letitia James.

At the Department of Justice, Colangelo helped to oversee the Civil, Civil Rights, Antitrust and Tax divisions, among others. He left the position after the appointment of the permanent associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, but has continued to work as her deputy, supervising lawyers in those departments.

In a statement, Colangelo said he was "honored to reunite with District Attorney Bragg," and by working on financial crimes, he is prepared to make it clear that "the same rules apply to everyone — no matter how powerful."

"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," he said in the statement.

Colangelo has never been a line prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer and has spent little time working on white-collar criminal prosecutions. However, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said that Colangelo is a fast learner. 

"Matthew is the perfect person for a job of this sensitivity, because he's unflappable, he's legally brilliant, he has impeccable judgment and he's humble enough to involve people who have been around the block," Perez said in an interview with the Times.

Colangelo's appointment is likely to spark outrage from Trump, who has frequently referred to the criminal and civil investigations against him as a political "witch hunt.

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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Alvin Bragg Donald Trump Letitia James Politics Trump Organization