New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the Trump Organization to determine whether it inflated the value of its assets to mislead lenders.
A Monday filing from the Democrat asked a state court to order the company and the president's son Eric Trump, the executive vice president of the business, to cooperate with subpoenas issued and provide financial documents as part of the state's investigation.
"OAG is currently investigating whether the Trump Organization and Donald J. Trump (Mr. Trump) improperly inflated the value of Mr. Trump’s assets on annual financial statements in order to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. One particular focus of this inquiry, as relevant here, is whether the Trump Organization and its agents improperly inflated, or caused to be improperly inflated, the value of the Seven Springs Estate," the court filing said, adding that the attorney general's office has not "concluded its investigation and has not reached a determination regarding whether the facts identified to date establish violations of law."
The civil investigation into the company began after Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer to President Trump, testified before Congress in early 2019 that his former boss's financial statements, spanning from 2011 to 2013, "inflated the values of Mr. Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage, while also deflating the value of other assets to reduce real estate taxes," the filing said. "Following that testimony, OAG began an investigation and determined that the financial statements were, in fact, provided to financial institutions."
Eric Trump has "no plausible basis to defy a lawful subpoena" as part of the investigation, the filing argued. The president's son was scheduled to be interviewed by state authorities in July of this year, but the documents said his lawyers later canceled that interview. “We cannot allow the requested interview to go forward ... pursuant to those rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution," Eric Trump's lawyers argued, according to the filing.
In response to the filing, Eric Trump accused James of exercising the "highest level of prosecutorial misconduct," attaching a video of the state attorney general in which she encouraged others to vote against the president and indicated plans to "definitely sue" him. "We're going to be a real pain in the ass. He's going to know my name personally," James said in the video that Trump tweeted out.
Without any basis, the NYAG has pledged to take my father down from the moment she ran for office. 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 pic.twitter.com/5tgtS3vH3F— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) August 24, 2020
In early August, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office also issued a court filing that appears to show that it is investigating potential bank and insurance fraud in the Trump Organization. Prosecutors did not explicitly identify the focus of their investigation, but they did say that "undisputed" news reports about the organization's business conduct provide a legitimate basis for their subpoena seeking the president's financial records. Those reports claim that Trump inflated his net worth and the values of his properties to lenders and insurers. The president's legal team asserts that he did nothing wrong.
State prosecutors subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, a creditor for Trump's properties as a private citizen, last year as part of their criminal investigation into the president's business practices, according to a report from the New York Times. Authorities reportedly sought to obtain all documents and records Trump submitted to the bank. Over the course of several months, the bank provided District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office with detailed financial statements and materials the president provided in order to obtain loans. Sources reportedly said the prosecutor's investigation is still in its early stages.
In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the president must allow the state of New York to examine his financial records as part of a grand jury criminal investigation. The case, Trump v. Vance, pertains to the district attorney for New York County asking for eight years' worth of Trump's personal tax returns in connection with a grand jury investigation. The documents are material for which the president may not claim executive privilege.
The New York prosecutor is seeking Trump's tax returns as part of an investigation into potential state crimes relating to hush money payments made to pornography star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. The president's legal team has argued that the Constitution's supremacy clause prevents investigations into a sitting president, a notion with which courts have disagreed.
Earlier this month, James filed a controversial lawsuit, People of the State of New York v. The National Rifle Association, against the NRA, charging it with a string of "fraud and abuse" violations. The 169-page lawsuit details a list of financial misconduct, including alleged instances of using NRA funds for vacations, private jets, and high-priced meals. The organization quickly filed a retaliatory lawsuit against James.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets. The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law," James said at the time in a statement.