Donald Trump arrives to testify in New York investigation

Former US President Donald Trump is being questioned under oath as part of the New York Attorney General’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings with a real estate magnate.

Mr. Trump’s testimony on Wednesday comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, which comes just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of of an unrelated federal investigation into whether he took classified records when he left the White Loger.

The New York civil investigation, led by Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Mr Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misjudged the value of valuable assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers heaven, deceptive lenders and tax authorities.

“In New York tonight. See the racist NYS Attorney General tomorrow, for the prosecution of the greatest witch hunt in US history! Mr Trump wrote on Truth Social on Tuesday, citing his oft-repeated claims about Ms James, who is black, and the investigation.

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, late Tuesday, August 9, 2022, in New York (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

“My great business and I are under attack from all sides,” Mr. Trump added. “Banana Republic!”

Messages seeking comment were left at Ms James’s office and Mr Trump’s lawyer.

Mr Trump’s testimony comes at a critical time in Ms James’ investigation, amid a pivotal week in her post-presidency.

In May, Ms. 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 Mr. Trump, his company or the of them.

The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn evidence that is not given in court — is one of the few pieces missing, the attorney general’s office said.

Two of Mr Trump’s adult children, Donald Jnr and Ivanka, have testified as part of the investigation 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 Trumps’ evidence was originally scheduled for last month but was delayed after the July 14 deaths of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, Ivanka’s mother, Donald Jnr and another son, Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition at The James Inquiry in 2020.

The Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will appear in court on Friday to seek the dismissal of tax evasion charges brought against them last year as part of the prosecutor’s parallel criminal investigation. district of Manhattan.

Ms James, a Democrat, said in court papers that her office uncovered ‘significant’ evidence that Mr Trump’s company ‘used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions”.

Ms 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 financial magazines to justify Mr. Trump’s place among the world’s billionaires.

The company even exaggerated the size of Mr Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size – a difference in value of around US$200m (£165.4m) , Ms James’ office said.

Mr. Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best appraisals is standard practice in the real estate industry.

He says Ms James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ and that his office is ‘doing everything in their corrupt power to interfere with my business dealings and with the political process’ .

“THERE IS NO CASE!” Mr Trump said in a statement in February, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Ms James’ office had a “clear right” to question Mr Trump and other executives at his company.

As Ms. James considered suing Mr. Trump or his company, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has long been conducting a parallel criminal investigation.

Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, photographed on Tuesday, August 9, 2022Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., photographed Tuesday, August 9, 2022 (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post/AP)

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 attorney general handling the investigation resigned after Mr Bragg raised internal questions about the viability of the case.

Mr. Bragg said his investigation is continuing, meaning Mr. Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from Ms. James’ investigators.

According to the subpoena issued by Ms. James’ office, Mr. 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 Estate.

As vocal as Mr 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 depositional setting, as 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.

Trump supporters Eric He, left, and HaoHao Li stand near Mar-a-LagoTrump supporters Eric He, left, and HaoHao Li stand near Mar-a-Lago (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post/AP)

Last summer, spurred on by evidence uncovered by Ms. James’s office, Manhattan prosecutors filed charges against Mr. Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

Prosecutors said Mr Weisselberg had collected more than $1.7m (£1.4m) in informal compensation.

Mr. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by Ms. James’ lawyers 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 Mr. Trump is known more as a “big picture man,” Mr. 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.

Once her investigation is complete, Ms. James could decide to take legal action and seek financial sanctions against Mr. Trump or his company, or even a ban on involvement in certain types of businesses.

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