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Trump says he won't answer questions in NY's Trump Organization investigation

Trump Investigations FBI
Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 14:24:28-04

Former President Donald Trump refused to answer questions under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul, he said in a statement.

Trump’s deposition comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, taking place just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal probe into whether he took classified records when he left the White House.

"Accordingly, under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution," Trump said in a statement.

The New York civil investigation, led by Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of prized assets like golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.

“In New York City tonight. Seeing racist N.Y.S. Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history!” Trump wrote on Truth Social, invoking his oft-repeated claims about James, who is Black, and the investigation.

“My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides," Trump added. "Banana Republic!”

Messages seeking comment were left with James’ office and with Trump’s lawyer.

It's a critical point in James’ investigation, midway through a pivotal week in his post-presidency.

In May, James' office said that it was nearing the end of its probe 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’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.

Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, testified in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

The Trumps’ testimony had initially been planned for last month but was delayed after the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of Ivanka, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition in James’ investigation in 2020.

On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, will be in court seeking dismissal of tax fraud charges brought against them last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s parallel criminal probe.

James, a Democrat, has said in court filings that her office has 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 exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the world’s 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 has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships, 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 “the clear right” to question Trump and other principals in his company.

While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has long pursued a parallel criminal investigation.