Trump testimony expected soon in New York civil investigation

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

The statement could mark 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 valuable assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers.

The New York Attorney General’s office, Letitia James, said in May that the investigation was drawing to a close and investigators Substantial evidence who could support legal action against Trump, his company, or both.

Trump’s statement — a legal term for affidavits not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.

Two of the former president’s adult children – Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump — were under questioning for the past few days, two people familiar with the case said. The people were not authorized to speak about the investigation publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

The Trumps’ testimony was initially scheduled for last month but was postponed following the death of the former president’s ex-wife on July 14. Ivana TrumpIvanka’s mother, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump.

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

Messages requesting comment were left at James’s office and Trump lawyers. They declined to comment or did not respond.

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

James alleges that the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its property to impress lenders or misrepresented what land was worth to lower the tax burden, citing the annual financial statements given to banks to help them secure favorable loan terms. and to financial journals to justify Trump’s place among the world. billionaire.

The company even exaggerated 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’s office said.

Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to disrupt my business relationships and the political process.”

“THERE IS NO CASE!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’s office had “a clear right” to question Trump and other executives in his firm.

While James has been investigating charges against Trump or his company, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has long been engaged in a parallel criminal investigation.

That investigation appeared to be progressing toward a possible criminal charge, but slowed after a new prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, took office in January.

A grand jury that had heard evidence was dissolved. The top prosecutor who handled the case resigned after Bragg internally raised questions about the viability of the case.

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

According to the subpoenas, Trump would 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 vocal as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on stage, legal experts say the same strategy could backfire in an impeachment situation, as anything he says could potentially be used against him or his company in the criminal investigation. . No former president has even been charged with a crime.

In their battle to block the subpoenas, attorneys for the Trumps argued that New York authorities were using the civil investigation to get information for the criminal investigation and that the statements were a ploy to avoid being presented to a criminal grand jury. were required to appear where state law requires they be given immunity.

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

Weisselberg and Eric Trump each appealed to the fifth amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ attorneys during separate statements in 2020, according to court documents.

The former president could choose to do the same, but it’s likely that “he will claim lack of knowledge on many questions,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University.

That strategy “could be very credible, in fact, because we know he’s not a green-eyed man, but a big-picture man,” Gillers said. “So he will answer the big questions and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers hope.”

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

Once her investigation is complete, James may decide to file a lawsuit and demand financial sanctions against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them from being involved in certain types of companies.

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

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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