Former President Donald Trump was slated to give testimony on Wednesday in the civil investigation by New York state Attorney General Letitia James into certain business practices at the Trump Organization.
“In New York City tonight,” Trump said just after midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday. “Seeing racist N.Y.S. Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history! My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides. Banana Republic!” The James investigation deals with apparent deceptive adjustments at the Trump Organization to valuations of its assets. Those misrepresentations were poised to provide the Trump family business with financial benefits like tax breaks, like the tax deductions obtained by the company through “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of conservation easements at two Trump properties that were provided to federal tax authorities, as James’s office explained it.
“We have uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years,” James previously said on Twitter. Another example of what James is investigating is the range of hundreds of millions of dollars across appraisals that a real estate services firm called Cushman & Wakefield prepared for a particular Trump property in Manhattan over several years. A higher appraisal was used in the Trump Organization obtaining a loan, suggesting the company financially benefited from making itself look better off than the financial reality at the firm. In the James investigation, two of the former president’s adult children, Ivanka and Don Jr., also recently testified after a court effort from the Trumps to block their appearances failed. According to reporting, Don Jr. didn’t invoke the Fifth Amendment while answering state prosecutors’ questions.
In a civil case, such as that which may stem from the James investigation, a jury is permitted to hold a witness’s potential refusal to answer questions against that individual. If James decides to bring a civil case, financial penalties for the Trump company could be the result if she proves claims she might make. Trump was slated to sit for questioning on Wednesday within days of the FBI descending on Mar-a-Lago, his resort in southern Florida where he’s largely resided since leaving the White House. The FBI’s search of the premises was connected to a Justice Department investigation into the handling of classified documents from the Trump administration, and one of the aims was to uncover whether federal records that federal law required be turned over to record-keeping authorities were still at the property. FBI agents ended up taking about a dozen boxes from the Trump property on Monday. It’s not immediately clear, of course, what’s in those boxes.
UPDATE: Trump, although compelled to show up for James’s questioning, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.