The New York State Attorney General’s office is investigating whether President Trump improperly manipulated the value of his assets to get loans and tax benefits.
The civil investigation is examining multiple Trump Organization properties in New York City, Chicago, upstate New York and Los Angeles, the AG’s office said in a statement on Monday. And officials said Trump’s son, Eric Trump, has been refusing to testify under oath in the investigation.
The bombshell investigation emerges just as the Republican National Convention is poised to nominate Trump to run for a second term this November, and days after Trump’s former campaign chief, Steve Bannon, was indicted by federal prosecutors in an unrelated fraud case.
“Attorney General James opened an investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization in 2019, after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that Trump’s annual financial statements inflated the values of Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage, while also deflating the value of other assets to reduce real estate taxes,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement.
The probe is civil in nature. But the AG has the option to hand over any evidence of wrongdoing to prosecutors, if the investigation turns up signs of criminal behavior.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James swept into office in January 2019 with a promise to to “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well.”
Trump has accused James of “harassing” his businesses. She fired back that “no one is above the law,” and taunted Trump: “You can call me Tish.”
The NY AG’s investigation was launched in 2019 after Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and “fixer,” testified before Congress that the Trump Organization inflated or low-balled the value of its assets to suit Trump’s purposes at any given moment. In some instances, such actions might be criminal.
Cohen alleged that Trump made false claims to insurance companies, a move that Cohen said would have allowed Trump to reduce his premiums. Cohen also said Trump inflated his wealth while seeking to borrow money from Deutsche Bank in a failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014. Lying to a financial institution to get a loan would be bank fraud, which carries a maximum 30 year sentence.
Attorney General James announced Monday that her office is taking a long, hard look at several Trump properties:
- Seven Springs Estate: A +200-acre property in Westchester County, purchased by the Trump Organization over a decade ago.
- 40 Wall Street: A mixed-use building in Manhattan partly owned by the Trump Organization.
- Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago: A hotel in Chicago that the AG’s office said went missing from Donald Trump’s “Statement of Financial Condition” starting in 2009.
- Trump National Golf Club – Los Angeles: A golf course in LA owned by the Trump Organization where the Trump Organization received a tax deduction after striking an agreement to maintain the property known as a “conservation easement.”
James’ office asked a judge on Monday to force Eric Trump to appear and answer questions.
Eric, who has been officially running Trump’s family business while his dad’s in the White House, initially agreed, the AG’s office said. But then he bailed and is now refusing to show up, the office said.
“Eric Trump’s categorical refusal to appear is unlawful, and he should be compelled to testify,” officials said in a court document filed on Monday.
Eric Trump is scheduled to publicly address the GOP nominating convention on Tuesday.
Altogether, the AG’s office asked the judge to enforce seven subpoenas against the Trump Organization, Eric Trump and a lawyer who advised Trump’s family business.
“Nothing will stop us from following the facts and the law, wherever they may lead. For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings,” Attorney General James said in a statement.
“They have stalled, withheld documents, and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath,” James said. “That’s why we've filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to comply with our office’s lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony. These questions will be answered and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law.”
Cover: Eric Trump tosses a hat into the crowd at a campaign rally for his father U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)