Trump testimony expected in New York civil inquiry soon

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is expected to be questioned under oath in coming days in the New York attorney general’s long-running investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul.

The statement could be a critical moment in the investigation into allegations that the Republican billionaire’s company, the Trump Organization, misled banks and tax authorities about the value of prized assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office said in May that it was nearing the end of its investigation and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action against Trump, his company, or both.

Trump’s deposition, a legal term for sworn testimony not given in court, is one of the few missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.

Two of the former president’s adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, have been questioned in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. The people were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and did so on condition of anonymity.

The Trumps’ testimony had initially been planned for last month, but was delayed after the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, ivana trumpIvanka’s mother, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump.

Eric Trump sat for a deposition in 2020. The New York Times first reported on Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony last week.

Messages seeking comment were left at James’s office and with the Trumps’ attorneys. They either declined to comment or did not reply.

James, a Democrat, said in court papers that her office uncovered “significant” evidence that Trump’s company “used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a range of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions.”

James alleges that the Trump Organization overstated its property values ​​to impress lenders or misrepresented land values ​​to reduce its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements provided to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the most important in the world. billionaires

The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was almost three times its actual size, a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.

Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that searching for the best valuations is common practice in the real estate industry. He says the James investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that his office is “doing everything in its corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships and the political process.”

“NO CASE!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had a “clear right” to question Trump and other directors of his company.

While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has long conducted a parallel criminal investigation.

That investigation appeared to be progressing toward a possible criminal indictment, but it slowed after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, took office in January.

A grand jury that had been hearing evidence disbanded. The main prosecutor who had been in charge of the investigation resigned after Bragg raised questions internally about the viability of the case.

Bragg has said his investigation is continuing, which means Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from James’ investigators.

According to the subpoenas, Trump was due to appear in person at the attorney general’s office, located in a Manhattan office tower that has doubled as the headquarters of the fictional conglomerate Waystar Royco on HBO’s “Succession.”

As vociferous as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and onstage at the rally, legal experts say the same strategy could backfire in a statement because anything he says could be used against him or his company in the investigation. criminal. No former president has even been charged with a crime.

In fighting to block the subpoenas, the Trumps’ attorneys argued that New York authorities were using the civil investigation to obtain information for the criminal investigation and that the statements were a ploy to avoid calling them before a criminal grand jury, where the law state requires that they be given immunity.

Last summer, spurred on by evidence uncovered by James’ office, Manhattan prosecutors charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in unofficial compensation. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.

Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when he was questioned by James’ attorneys during separate depositions in 2020, according to court documents.

The former president could choose to do the same, but he is likely to “claim a lack of knowledge on many issues,” said Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor.

That strategy “can actually be quite believable because we know it’s not some sort of green visor, it’s kind of a big picture,” Gillers said. “Then he will answer the general questions and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers hope.”

“On the other hand, his brashness makes him a lawyer’s nightmare and his overconfidence can lead him astray. Whoever questions it will encourage that,” added the professor.

Once his investigation is complete, James could decide to file a lawsuit and seek financial sanctions against Trump or his company, or even ban them from engaging in certain types of business.


Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.


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