By MICHAEL R. SISAK, NEW YORK (AP):- The New York attorney general’s office confirmed Monday that it has subpoenaed former President Donald Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., demanding their testimony in an investigation into the family’s business practices.
Attorney General Letitia James’ office said in a court filing that it recently issued subpoenas seeking the Trumps’ testimony and documents as part of a yearslong civil probe involving matters including “the valuation of properties owned or controlled” by Trump and his company.
Monday’s filing, made public as the Trumps gear up to fight the subpoenas, was the first time that investigators publicly disclosed that they are also seeking information from Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., both trusted allies of their father who’ve been executives in his family’s Trump Organization.
Last month, it was reported that James’ office had requested Trump sit for a deposition.
James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.
James went to court recently seeking to have a judge force the Trumps to comply with the subpoenas. The Trumps are expected to file court papers seeking to have them thrown out. A similar legal battle played out last year after James’ office subpoenaed another Trump son, Trump Organization executive Eric Trump, and a judge forced him to testify after his lawyers abruptly canceled a scheduled deposition.
The dispute over the new subpoenas played out in secret until Monday, when the judge who handled the fight over Eric Trump’s testimony agreed to entertain arguments over the recent subpoenas and the court filing from James’ office was posted to the public court docket.
The same judge, Arthur Engoron, previously sided with James on other matters relating to the probe, including forcing Trump’s company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records pertaining to a Trump-owned estate north of Manhattan.
Messages seeking comment were left with the Trumps’ lawyers and the Trump Organization.
Last month, Trump sued James in federal court, seeking to put an end to her investigation. Trump, in the lawsuit, claimed that the attorney general had violated the Republican’s constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”
In the past, the Republican ex-president has decried James’ investigation as part of a “witch hunt” along with a parallel criminal probe being run by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
In a statement Monday, James’ office said: “As her investigation into financial dealing of the Trump Organization continues, Attorney General James is seeking interviews under oath of Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump.”
“Despite numerous attempts to delay our investigation by the Trump Organization, we are confident that our questions will be answered and the truth will be uncovered because no one is above the law,” the statement said.
Although James’ civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, her office has been involved in both.
Last year, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. gained access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax records after a multiyear fight that twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also brought tax fraud charges in July against the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Before he left office last week, Vance convened a new grand jury to hear evidence in the investigation, but left the decision on additional charges to his successor, Alvin Bragg. The new district attorney has said he’ll be directly involved in the Trump matter while also retaining the two veteran prosecutors who led the case under Vance.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative fringe benefits paid to executives.
Trump has been subpoenaed before, testifying in October in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by protesters who say his security team roughed them up early in his presidential campaign in 2015. Some presidents were subject to subpoena while in office, including Richard Nixon in 1974 for his infamous Watergate recordings, and Thomas Jefferson for the 1806 treason trial of his former Vice President Aaron Burr.
Still, it’s exceedingly rare for law enforcement agencies to issue a civil subpoena for testimony from a person who is also the subject of a related criminal investigation.
That’s partly because the person under criminal investigation could simply cite their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. It is unlikely that Trump’s lawyers would allow him to be deposed unless they were sure his testimony couldn’t be used against him in a criminal case.
Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations made in news reports and by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets.
James’ office issued subpoenas to local governments as part of the civil probe for records pertaining to the estate, Seven Springs, and a tax benefit Trump received for placing land into a conservation trust. Vance later issued subpoenas seeking many of the same records.
James’ office has also been looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago and a golf course near Los Angeles.
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