'An Escalation We've Been Expecting': New York AG Seeks Donald Trump's Testimony in Civil Fraud Probe

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on May 18, 2021. (Photo: James Devaney/GC Images)

'An Escalation We've Been Expecting': New York AG Seeks Donald Trump's Testimony in Civil Fraud Probe

The state attorney general's office is also participating in a criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James seeks to question former President Donald Trump under oath for her investigation into possible fraud within the Trump Organization, multiple media outlets revealed Thursday.

The Washington Post--which broke the news, citing unnamed sources--reported that James requested a deposition at her New York office on January 7. A spokesperson for the attorney general declined to comment and representatives for Trump did not respond to the newspaper's requests.

Calling the development "an escalation we've been expecting," Los Angeles Times legal affairs columnist Harry Litman said, "His lawyers have to know he would be a disaster but on what basis can he, an ordinary citizen now, try to resist?"

The New York AG's office is also participating in the criminal probe spearheaded by Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney.

The New York Timesexplained how Vance's investigation could interfere with James' attempt to secure Trump's testimony:

[James'] request comes as Mr. Vance is pushing to determine whether Mr. Trump or his family business, the Trump Organization, engaged in a pattern of criminal fraud by intentionally submitting false property values to potential lenders. Mr. Vance, a Democrat, did not seek reelection and is leaving office at the end of the year.

And because the two investigations overlap--both Ms. James and Mr. Vance are focused on whether Mr. Trump inflated his property values to secure financing, and their offices are working together--Mr. Trump could refuse to sit for a deposition once Ms. James formally subpoenas him.

His lawyers could ask a judge to block the deposition, arguing that Mr. Trump's testimony could be unfairly used against him in the criminal investigation, violating his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Amid speculation that attorneys for the former president may also point to James' bid to serve as New York's next Democratic governor as motivation for her request--as the Trump Organization did in a statement to the Post--James suspended her campaign and announced she would instead seek reelection as AG.

"I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general," she tweeted, noting that "there are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway."

The Trump Organization had said that "this is another political witch hunt."

"The only focus of the New York AG is to investigate Trump, all for her own political ambitions," the statement added. "This political prosecution is illegal, unethical, and is a travesty to our great state and legal system."

Noting the Post report, Tim O'Brien--author of the biography TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald--tweeted that "Trump's biggest liability when he sits for depositions is that he's a pathologic liar. His lawyers have some work to do."

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