New York’s attorney general is seeking a court order to force Donald Trump and his two oldest children to testify in their fraud case, stating that she has ‘uncovered significant evidence’ of financial misconduct.
Letitia James has since March 2019 been looking into the tax affairs of the Trump Organization, after former Trump confidante Michael Cohen shed light on its business practices.
James is looking at whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets in a bid to claim tax relief.
James said that the former president claimed his Trump Tower penthouse was 30,000 square feet and worth $327 million, when in fact it was 11,000 square feet and worth a fraction of that.
He also inflated the value of his golf course in Scotland, and wrongly stated that members of his Westchester club were paying $150,000 to join.
The Trumps misrepresented the value to banks, insurance companies and the IRS, James said.
Letitia James on Tuesday announced she was seeking a subpoena to force Donald Trump and his two eldest children to testify
Eric Trump, far left, was forced to testify in October 2020. Allen Weisselberg (second right) testified in the fall of 2021. James now wants to force Don Jr (far right) and Ivanka to testify. They are all pictured in January 2017
‘We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,’ said James.
‘No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.
‘We have uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years.’
James said that Trump and his son Don Jr, 44, and daughter Ivanka, 40, were being evasive, and it was unacceptable.
‘Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have all been closely involved in the transactions in question, so we won’t tolerate their attempts to evade testifying in this investigation.
‘We will not be deterred in our efforts to continue this investigation, uncover the facts, and pursue justice, no matter how many roadblocks Mr. Trump and his family throw in our way.’
The court filing said state authorities have not yet decided whether to bring a civil lawsuit in connection with the allegations, but that investigators need to question Trump and his two eldest children as part of the probe.
Trump and his lawyers say the investigation is politically motivated.
Michael Cohen, who worked for the Trump family for over a decade until he turned on them, and was sentenced to three years in federal prison for tax evasion and campaign finance violations, sparked James’s investigation into the Trump Organization. Cohen is seen on January 3 on a podcast, in a Mea Culpa hoodie
James, pictured on January 6, has said that no one is above the law – even the Trumps
Donald Trump is seen with his son Don Jr and daughter Ivanka during the season six finale of The Apprentice
The Trumps are seen with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in June 2019, during a visit to London
In the court documents, James’ office gave its most detailed accounting yet of its investigation into allegations that Trump’s company repeatedly misstated the value of assets to get favorable loan terms or slash its tax burden.
The Trump Organization, it said, had overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on paperwork submitted to the IRS to justify several million dollars in tax deductions.
Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester, New York, was also overvalued. In 2004, the Trump Organization valued the property at $80 million; in 2007 they valued it at $200 million; and by 2012, they valued it at $291 million. In 2016 an independent valuer put it at $56 million.
The company misreported the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size – a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.
They cited deposition testimony from Trump’s longtime financial chief Allen Weisselberg, who was charged last year with tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation.
Weisselberg admitted that the value of Trump’s apartment was overstated by ‘give or take’ $200 million.
Trump claimed, for tax and finance purposes, that his penthouse in Trump Tower was 30,000 square feet, when in fact it was 11,000 square feet
Trump, seen in June 2011 on his Scottish golf course, also inflated the value of the property
Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester, New York, was also overvalued. In 2004, the Trump Organization valued the property at $80 million; in 2007 they valued it at $200 million; and by 2012, they valued it at $291 million. In 2016 an independent valuer put it at $56 million
Trump’s legal team has sought to block the subpoenas, calling them ‘an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver.’
They say James is improperly attempting to obtain testimony that could then be used in the parallel criminal investigation, being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to put an end to her investigation.
In the suit, his lawyers claimed the attorney general, a Democrat, had violated the Republican’s constitutional rights in a ‘thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.’
In the past, the Republican ex-president has decried James’ investigation and Bragg’s probe as part of a ‘witch hunt.’
In a statement late on Tuesday, James office said that it hasn’t decided whether the evidence outlined in Tuesday’s court papers merits legal action, but that the investigation should proceed unimpeded.
‘For more than two years, the Trump Organization has used delay tactics and litigation in an attempt to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings,’ James said.
‘Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.’
Although James’ civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, her office has been involved in both, dispatching several lawyers to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan D.A.’s office.
One judge has previously sided with James on other matters relating to the probe, including making another Trump son, Trump Organization executive Eric Trump, testify after his lawyers abruptly canceled a scheduled deposition.
The Trump family are pictured in 2015 at the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, held at Trump Tower
Allen Weisselberg looks on as Trump speaks in May 2016. He has been forced to testify in James’s case
Last year, the Manhattan district attorney brought tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, its longtime chief financial officer.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative fringe benefits paid to executives.
Trump, in his lawsuit to block James, filed shortly before Christmas, stated: ‘Her mission is guided solely by political animus and a desire to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against a private citizen who she views as a political opponent.’
Attorneys for the former president claim he and his family have been subjected to James’ ‘bitter crusade’ and accuse her of ‘bombarding’ them with subpoenas.
Trump accused James of being ‘nothing but a corrupt official doing the dirty work of your party.’
‘Tell Letitia that she is not dealing with the Cuomo brothers, a corrupt Governor in a corrupt state, including your office and others, and Fredo, who did the Governor’s dirty work for him,’ he said in a statement.
‘Despite many years of investigation that nobody else could have survived even if they did things just slightly wrong, yours is just a continuation of the political Witch Hunt that has gone on against me by the Radical Left Democrats for years.
‘This is not about delay, this is about our Constitution!
‘You are nothing but a corrupt official doing the dirty work of your party. You should not be in office. This could well be the reason you were just rejected by the people of NY in your inept run for governor. You didn’t quit for a higher purpose, you quit because your poll numbers were atrocious—you didn’t have a chance. New York got lucky!’
James had announced a run for governor of New York before suspending her campaign to once again mount a bid for the Attorney General’s office.
Trump attorney Alina Habba told CNBC in a statement: ‘Letitia James targets President Trump with a callous disregard for the ethical and moral obligations she swore to abide by when she became Attorney General.’
‘She has short changed the state by commencing this partisan investigation and has forever tarnished the sanctity of her office.
‘By filing this lawsuit, we intend to not only hold her accountable for her blatant constitutional violations, but to stop her bitter crusade to punish her political opponent in its tracks,’ Habba said.
Trump responded with fury to James’ statement announcing her investigation will go on unabated