Trump Suggests He’ll Be Questioned As New York Investigation Nears End
Donald J. Trump suggested he will be questioned Wednesday by the New York Attorney General’s office, a potentially pivotal turning point in a long-running civilian investigation into his business practices.
The stakes for Mr Trump are unusually high. Though he has made numerous statements over the years, he fought for months to avoid such questions, which could determine the outcome of the investigation into the former president and his family real estate company, the Trump Organization.
The questioning comes at a legally dangerous time for Mr Trump. Two days ago, while at his golf club in New Jersey, the FBI searched his Florida home as part of an investigation into sensitive material Mr Trump took with him when he left the White House.
He denied wrongdoing and lashed out at the FBI search as “an attack” that “could only take place in broken third world countries.” He also called New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation a politically motivated witch hunt.
He reiterated his criticism of his Truth Social account. “In New York City tonight. See the racist NYS Attorney General tomorrow for a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in US history!” He wrote. “My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides. Banana Republic!”
Understand the New York AG’s Trump Inquiry
Understand the New York AG’s Trump Inquiry
An empire under scrutiny. Letitia James, the New York State Attorney General, is currently conducting a civil investigation into the business practices of former President Donald J. Trump. Here’s what you need to know:
Since March 2019, Ms. James’ attorneys, who have gathered an encyclopedic understanding of the Trump business, have been investigating whether Mr. Trump and his company have improperly inflated the value of his hotels, golf clubs and other assets.
Early this year, Ms. James said in a lawsuit that the company’s business practices were “fraudulent or deceptive,” but added that her office had to question Mr. Trump and two of his adult children to determine who was responsible for that behavior. .
Mr Trump’s questioning — which comes days after the offices of Attorney General Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. questioned – probably represents the final stage of Ms James’s investigation.
Because her investigation is a civil matter, Ms. James can indict Mr. Trump, but cannot file a criminal charge. Still, the specter of criminal charges hangs over the case: The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had conducted a parallel criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump had fraudulently inflated the valuations of his properties.
And depending on Mr Trump’s answers to questions on Wednesday, it could revive that investigation, which lost momentum earlier this year.
Mr Trump is also battling a litany of other criminal investigations. Along with this week’s FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club in Palm Beach, Florida, federal prosecutors question witnesses about his involvement in efforts to reverse his election loss; a House committee held a series of hearings to tie him more closely to the January 6 attack on the Capitol; and a Georgia prosecutor is investigating possible election meddling on the part of Mr Trump and his allies.
Ms. James’s investigation may be completed sooner than those investigations. Instead of filing a lawsuit that would take years to resolve, she could first enter settlement negotiations with the former president’s lawyers to get a faster financial payout. But if she eventually charges Mr. Trump — and if Ms. James is victorious in the trial — a judge could impose hefty financial penalties on Mr. Trump and restrict his New York business activities.
In their bid to fend off a lawsuit from Ms. James, Mr. Trump’s attorneys will likely argue that real estate valuation is a subjective process and that his company simply estimated the value of his properties, with no intention of doing so. artificially inflating them. While Ms. James has argued in court documents that the Trump organization provided fake valuations to banks to obtain favorable loans, Mr. Trump’s lawyers could argue that these were sophisticated financial institutions that made a hefty profit from their dealings with Mr. Trump.
It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will make that argument in his questioning.
The interrogation marks the culmination of months of legal wrangling. In January, Mr. Trump asked a New York judge to withdraw a subpoena from Ms. James for his testimony and personal documents. The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, sided with Ms. James and ordered the Trumps to testify, a ruling that an appeals court upheld.
And at Ms. James’ request, Judge Engoron contemptuously held Mr. Trump in court, saying he had failed to comply with the terms of Ms. James’ subpoena to request his documents. It was an embarrassing two-week episode that forced Mr Trump to pay a $110,000 fine.
During an April hearing for the contempt warrant, one of Ms. James, Kevin Wallace, indicated that the investigation was nearing its end. Ms. James’s office, he said, should take “enforcement action” in the “near future.”
The lawsuit — or a settlement agreement — would likely accuse Mr. Trump and his company of fraudulently inflating the value of his golf clubs, hotels and other properties on his financial statements. Mr Trump’s company provided the statements to banks in hopes of getting loans.
Ms. James revealed in a court filing this year that Mr. Trump’s longtime accounting firm, which prepared these statements, had severed ties with him. The company, Mazars, has essentially revoked nearly a decade on Mr Trump’s financial statements.