After Michael Cohen told Congress last year that his former boss, Donald Trump, regularly inflated the value of his assets to obtain loans and deflated them to reduce his taxes, the New York attorney general opened a probe into the allegations. Not surprisingly, the Trump Organization stonewalled A.G. Letitia James’s office at every turn, including in its request to depose the president’s son, Eric Trump, who is running the family business with his brother in their father’s absence. But unfortunately for Eric, he can neither run nor hide any longer!
On Wednesday, a New York state judge ruled that Eric must answer questions related to the fraud investigation, under oath, before the election. The president’s son refused to show up for a subpoenaed interview on July 22; last week, his lawyers said he would deign to be deposed but would only do so after the November election because he didn’t want his interview to be used “for political purposes.” But Judge Arthur Engoron, having none of Eric’s excuses, ordered him to sit for a deposition no later than October 7, saying he found the post-election argument “unpersuasive.”
James’s office is specifically looking at four properties where Donald Trump’s alleged fraud took place: 40 Wall Street, the Manhattan building that Trump excitedly, and incorrectly, bragged was the tallest building in downtown Manhattan after the collapse of the Twin Towers; the Seven Springs estate, a 212-acre mansion in Westchester; Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles; and Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago. In a 68-page memo, James wrote that “Valuations of Seven Springs were used to claim an apparent $21.1 million tax deduction for donating a conservation easement on the property in tax year 2015, and in submissions to financial institutions as a component of Mr. Trump’s net worth.“ Last March, an investigation by the Washington Post found that Trump brazenly inflated his assets to banks and insurance companies—claiming in one instance that he had $72 million worth of homes to sell at his golf course in Southern California when in reality the figure was more like $3 million, and adding 800 fictional acres to another—and concluded that the Trump Organization may have “defraud[ed] insurers and lenders with false information.”
In August, when the A.G.’s office announced its probe, Eric Trump, legal expert, tweeted, “This is the highest level of prosecutorial misconduct – purposely dropped on the eve of the Republican Convention for political points. Sad that this is her focus as New York burns.” He added: “Without any basis, the NYAG has pledged to take my father down from the moment she ran for office.” In a statement released last month, James said, “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. They have stalled, withheld documents, and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath. 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.”
Last year, Donald Trump agreed to pay $2 million to eight charities as part of a settlement with the New York attorney general’s office in which he also admitted to misusing funds his foundation raised for charity. As part of the settlement, the president’s three eldest children, who served as officers of the foundation, were ordered to undergo training to ensure they do not engage in similar misconduct, which we assume involved an instructor saying, “Repeat after me: ‘I will not misappropriate money intended for charity for my own selfish purposes. I will not misappropriate money intended for charity for my own selfish purposes. I will not misappropriate money intended for charity for my own selfish purposes.’”