RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel confusingly attacks federal prosecutors for New York state probe of Trump

New York's attorney general — not SDNY — has issued subpoenas for two banks related to a Trump Organization

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 13, 2019 11:49AM (EDT)

Ronna Romney McDaniel (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Ronna Romney McDaniel (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Shortly after it was reported that President Donald Trump and his organization are under a separate investigation by state prosecutors in New York, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel confusingly lashed out at Department of Justice prosecutors based in the Southern District of New York.

McDaniel's tweet came after it was revealed on Tuesday that Trump may be facing additional legal trouble based on a report that the New York attorney general's office, not the SDNY,  issued subpoenas to a pair of banks connected to the Trump Organization.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has opened a new inquiry based on testimony delivered by Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen earlier this month, according to The New York Times. Because the inquiry is a civil investigation rather than a criminal one, it is unlikely that this would directly put Trump's presidency into legal jeopardy. At the same time, the exact nature of the probe is unclear, aside from the fact that it sent subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, one of the few lending institutions that has been willing to open a line of credit to Trump despite his numerous business failures. The other bank subpoenaed was Investors Bank, a smaller institution based out of New Jersey.

The probe was related to Trump's unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills, a football team in the NFL, as well as financial matters pertaining to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and the Trump National Doral outside Miami.

"We remain committed to cooperating with authorized investigations," a spokesperson for Deutsche Bank told Vice News.

One of the most controversial details of Cohen's testimony before Congress earlier this month was when he said that Trump has deliberately inflated his assets and worth when it suits him. If true, that could put Trump in considerable legal jeopardy.

"It appears that Donald Trump made a practice of wildly exaggerating his wealth and the supposed business acumen that enabled him to amass it," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe told Salon last week.

He added, "Although there are no legal and especially criminal consequences to that kind of exaggeration on reality television or in talking to journalists at places like Forbes in order to cheat one’s way onto various lists of the wealthiest people around, there are very serious criminal consequences indeed when such lies, in the form of fraudulent financial statements, are used either to extract loans from banks or to obtain insurance on favorable terms from various insurance companies."

As Tribe concluded, "It certainly looks like Michael Cohen’s sworn testimony to that effect – which he had no apparent motive to falsify and which, if false, would expose him to added federal imprisonment – points to criminal liability on the president’s part. I assume that both the federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York and the prosecutors of the New York State Attorney General’s Office will pursue the truth to see whether Cohen’s testimony pans out and, if it does, to see whether the relevant statutes of limitations have run."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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