Donald Trump will be questioned under oath
Donald Trump was questioned under oath on Wednesday as part of the New York Attorney General’s lengthy civil investigation into his business dealings as a flurry of legal activity surrounds the former US president.
Trump’s testimony comes just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal investigation into whether he took classified records when he left the White House.
He arrived at the New York Attorney General’s office shortly before 9 a.m. in a motorcade of several vehicles. As he left Trump Tower in New York for the short journey downtown, he waved to reporters gathered outside but made no comment.
The civil investigation, led by State Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misjudged the value of valuable assets like golf courses and skyscrapers. sky, deceptive lenders and tax authorities.
« In New York tonight. See the racist NYS Attorney General tomorrow, for the sequel to the greatest witch hunt in US history! » Trump previously wrote on Truth Social, citing his oft-repeated claims about James, who is black, and the investigation.
« My great company, and I, are under attack from all sides, » Trump wrote beforehand on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded. « Banana Republic! »
Messages seeking comment were left with James’s office and Trump’s attorney.
Trump’s testimony comes both at a critical time in James’ investigation and amid a pivotal week in his post-presidency.
In May, James’ office said it was nearing the end of its investigation and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company, or both.
The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that is not given in court — is one of the few pieces missing, the attorney general’s office said.
Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, have testified in the inquest in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. Individuals were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
The testimony of the three Trumps was originally scheduled for last month but was delayed after the deaths on July 14 of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, Ivanka’s mother, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition in James’ 2020 investigation.
On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will appear in court to seek the dismissal of tax evasion charges against them last year as part of the prosecutor’s parallel criminal investigation. district of Manhattan.
James, a Democrat, said in court papers that her office uncovered « significant » evidence that Trump’s company « used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions ».
James alleges the Trump Organization overstated the value of its assets to impress lenders or misrepresented the value of land to reduce its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and magazines to justify Trump’s place among the countries of the world. billionaires.
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’ office said.
Trump denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best appraisals is standard practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated « witch hunt » and that his office is « doing everything in its corrupt discretion to interfere with my business dealings and with the political process. »
« THERE IS NO CASE! » Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had a « clear right » to question Trump and other directors of his company.
As James considered suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has long been conducting 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 disbanded. The chief prosecutor handling the investigation resigned after Bragg raised internal questions about the viability of the case.
Bragg said his investigation is continuing, which means Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from James’s investigators.
According to the subpoena issued by James’ office, Trump was to appear in person at the attorney general’s office, located in a Manhattan office tower that doubled as the headquarters of fictional conglomerate Waystar Royco on HBO’s « Succession. »
As vocal as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say the same strategy could backfire on him in a deposition because 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 fighting to block the subpoenas, the Trumps’ lawyers argued that New York authorities were using the civil investigation to obtain information for the criminal investigation and that the depositions were a ploy to avoid calling them before a court. criminal grand jury, where state law requires that they be given immunity.
Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered by James’s office, Manhattan prosecutors filed charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in unofficial compensation.
Weisselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ attorneys in separate depositions in 2020, court documents show.
The former president could choose to do the same, but it’s likely « he’ll claim to lack knowledge on many issues, » said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers.
That could be a successful strategy, since Trump is best known as a « big picture guy, » Gillers said. « So he will answer general questions and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers hope. »
« On the other hand, his impetuosity makes him a lawyer’s nightmare and his overconfidence risks leading him astray. Whoever questions him will encourage this, » added the professor.
Once his investigation is complete, James may decide to take legal action and seek financial sanctions against Trump or his company, or even a ban on involvement in certain types of businesses.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.