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Donald Trump May Have ‘Falsely and Fraudulently’ Valued Assets, and Eric Trump Took the Fifth to More Than 500 Questions: New York AG


Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr.

Former President Donald Trump may have “falsely and fraudulently” valued multiple assets, and his family has adopted a tactic of delaying and ducking testimony—when they’re not pleading the Fifth, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) claimed late on Tuesday evening.

In explosive court documents released just before midnight, James alleged that the 45th president’s company inflated the size of his Trump Tower triplex by nearly three times or tax benefits, did not assign a value to the Trump brand, and may have used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations on six properties to obtain economic benefits.

“Delay Tactics and Litigation”

Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have tried to quash their subpoenas for what they call “an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver” for their documents and testimony. According to the attorney general’s latest petition, Eric Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to more than 500 questions over six hours during his pre-2020 election deposition.

“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 wrote in a statement. “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. The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony because no one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them. We will not be deterred in our efforts to continue this investigation and ensure that no one is above the law.”

Trump’s attorney Alina Habba replied with a countershot at the attorney general, whom the lawyer repeatedly addressed by her first name.

“True to form, Letitia has resorted to mischaracterizing the contents of a routine motion response as a ‘smoking gun,’” Habba wrote in an email to Law&Crime. “This is merely the latest in a long line of unfounded attacks against my client and an obvious attempt to distract the public from her own inappropriate conduct. Leticia [sic], you are not above the law.”

The Trumps have attacked her probe as politically motivated. James, a Democrat, is running her civil probe on a parallel track with the criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which indicted multiple Trump Organization entities and its former CFO Allen Weisselberg last year with a slew of tax fraud charges.

Since that time, Alvin Bragg (D) replaced Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) as Manhattan’s top prosecutor. Weisselberg is expected to appear in court again on Jan. 31, and James filed her court papers just before the deadline of her anticipated response to the Trump family’s motion to quash.

“Parallel Investigation”

The attorney general’s office argued that the criminal investigation’s existence is no reason to flout their subpoenas.

“The fact that there may be a parallel investigation being conducted by the District Attorney of the County of New York (‘DANY’) is neither unusual nor a sufficient ground for respondents to avoid sitting for testimony,” the attorney general’s memo states. “Nor does the participation of attorneys from OAG in any separate criminal investigation provide a basis for the Court to quash properly issued subpoenas.”

On Dec. 3, 2020, the former president agreed that he would provide documents within two weeks, according to James.

The attorney general says that the Trump Organization later insisted that the ex-president had no involvement in the areas of the business that were the subjects of the subpoenas. Finding that assertion implausible, the attorney general’s assistant Kevin Wallace noted that the company’s statement of financial condition states: “Donald J. Trump is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statement in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America and for designing, implementing, and maintaining internal control relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statement.”

James says that her investigation to date generally points to this conclusion.

“Furthermore, evidence obtained by OAG indicates that Mr. Trump was personally involved in reviewing and approving the Statements of Financial Condition before their issuance—a natural and logical focus of an investigation into whether a financial statement was fraudulent or misleading and, if so, who was responsible,” her memo alleges.

Now approaching its third year, James’s probes have looked into the Trump Organization’s financial disclosures on several properties in New York, Chicago and Scotland. Much of the office’s inquiry has been dedicated to Trump’s 212-acre Westchester estate known as Seven Springs. Other properties under the AG’s scrutiny are Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, Trump Park Avenue, and 40 Wall Street.

On financial statements, Trump’s company assigned no value to its brand, which the attorney general’s office believes to be “false or at least misleading.”

Read the memo, below:

[Image via TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."