‘Significant evidence’ Trump’s company misled banks, inflated assets, N.Y. AG says

Click to play video: 'Donald Trump, 2 children subpoenaed in N.Y. probe over business practices'
Donald Trump, 2 children subpoenaed in N.Y. probe over business practices
WATCH: Donald Trump, 2 children subpoenaed in N.Y. probe over business practices – Jan 4, 2022

New York’s attorney general said Tuesday her investigation into Donald Trump’s business practices has uncovered “significant evidence” his company misled banks by fraudulently inflating it assets, as her office seeks testimony from the former U.S. president and his children.

Attorney General Letitia James’ office said she has filed motions to compel Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to appear for sworn testimony, and for Trump to produce documents sought in the yearslong civil probe involving matters including “the valuation of properties owned or controlled” by Trump and his company.

The court filing said state authorities haven’t 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.

“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 in a statement.

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“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.”

In the court documents, James’ office gave its most detailed accounting yet of its investigation of allegations that Trump’s company repeatedly exaggerated the value of assets to get favorable loan terms, or misstated what land was worth to 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.

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, citing deposition testimony from Trump’s longtime financial chief Allen Weisselberg, who was charged last year with tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation.

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James’ office said that “significant additional evidence” has been uncovered in the years since Trump’s son Eric — who along with Donald Trump Jr. have helped run the Trump Organization during their father’s political career — was subpoenaed in 2020.

The motion to compel was filed in opposition to the Trumps’ own motion to dismiss James’ subpoenas of Trump, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, which were issued early this month.

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Click to play video: '‘All Americans should be concerned,’ Trump Organization lawyer comments on charges against company CFO'
‘All Americans should be concerned,’ Trump Organization lawyer comments on charges against company CFO

Lawyers for the Trumps called the subpoenas “an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver” and accused James of attempting to obtain testimony that could then be used against the Trumps in a parallel criminal investigation being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

James “seeks to circumvent the entire grand jury process” and nullify the Trumps’ rights by forcing them to testify without the immunity that’s guaranteed under state law if they were subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury in the criminal probe, the Trumps’ lawyers wrote in their motion to dismiss.

Last month, Trump sued James in federal court, seeking to put an end to her investigation. Trump, in the lawsuit, claimed that the attorney general had violated the Republican’s constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”

The Republican ex-president has decried both James’ investigation and the Manhattan probe as part of a political “witch hunt.”

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James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.

“No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them,” James said Tuesday.

Last year, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. gained access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax records after a multiyear fight that twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also brought tax fraud charges in July against the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Weisselberg.

Before he left office last month, Vance convened a new grand jury to hear evidence in the investigation, but left the decision on additional charges to his successor, Bragg. The new district attorney has said he’ll be directly involved in the Trump matter while also retaining the two veteran prosecutors who led the case under Vance.

Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative fringe benefits paid to executives.

Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations made in news reports and by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets.

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James’ office issued subpoenas to local governments as part of the civil probe for records pertaining to the estate, Seven Springs, and a tax benefit Trump received for placing land into a conservation trust. Vance later issued subpoenas seeking many of the same records.

James’ office has also been looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago and a golf course near Los Angeles.

—With files from the Associated Press

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