New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed Monday that she filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's business empire, calling on the New York State Supreme Court to force the Trump Organization to comply with seven subpoenas that the company has thus far failed to respond to.
The subpoenas would release thousands of documents regarding the company's alleged misleading of lenders regarding its assets.
James called on the judge to compel Eric Trump, the president's son and an executive vice president at the company, to testify regarding the Trump Organization's "Statements of Financial Condition," which the company shared with lenders to detail its financial assets and debts.
I took action to force the Trump Organization, and specifically EVP Eric Trump, to comply with my office’s ongoing investigation into its financial dealings.
For months, the Trump Organization has failed to fully comply with our subpoenas in this investigation.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) August 24, 2020
Eric Trump, who with his brother Donald, Jr. took over the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization in 2017 when the president took office, was scheduled to be interviewed by New York state investigators about the matter last month but abruptly canceled.
Eric Trump's lawyers are now stating that he will not meet with investigators, citing his constitutional rights.
One tidbit: Eric Trump, not even arguable immune from being deposed, has simply refused to be interviewed after initially agreeing to a July date. There is literally no reason to dodge the sit down unless the truth would subject you to liability. https://t.co/03QmdppZPn
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 24, 2020
"For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings," said James in a statement Monday. "They have stalled, withheld documents, and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath. That's why we've filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to comply with our office's lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony."
James opened the investigation after Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified under oath in February 2019 that the Trump Organization had used Statements of Financial Condition to inflate assets in order to secure favorable terms for loans, as well as deflating some assets to reduce real estate taxes.
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The attorney general has issued several subpoenas since opening the investigation.
Eric Trump was heavily involved in creating the financial documents and in the transactions with lenders, according to James's office.
The attorney general is investigating four properties owned the the Trump Organization:
- Seven Springs Estate, a 212-acre property in Westchester County, New York which the company failed to develop into several luxury homes after buying it in 1995;
- 40 Wall Street, a mixed-use building in Lower Manhattan;
- Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, a complex which was left off the Trump Organization's Statements of Financial Condition; and
- Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, for which the company received a tax deduction after it donated a conservation easement over the property in 2014.
As David Farenthold reported in the Washington Post Monday, the company's 2011 statement claimed the value of Seven Springs was $261 million, contrasting with the $20 million value assessed by local authorities.
The lawsuit was filed on the first day of the Republican National Convention at which the GOP officially nominated Trump for reelection. Eric Trump is scheduled to speak at the convention later this week, and his brother, Donald Jr., will speak Monday night.
James filed the lawsuit weeks after moving to dismantle the National Rifle Association, a major Trump donor, citing fraud. The president and his company have also come under legal scrutiny in New York state previously. Trump University, Trump's for-profit real estate training program, was forced to settle for $25 million in 2016 after being sued for defrauding students.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed Mazars USA, the president's accounting firm, last year in order to obtain Trump's personal and business tax returns for his investigation into the Trump Organization. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in July that Trump was not immune to Vance's investigation, prompting Mazars to comply with the subpoena, but the case has been held up by Trump's legal team. On Monday, Vance's office said it would not enforce the subpoena until after a federal appeals court ruled on Trump's request for a stay.
The appeals court won't hear arguments in the case until September 1.
James vowed on Monday that legal questions about Trump's business dealings "will be answered."
"The truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law," the attorney general said.