New York attorney general asks court to compel Eric Trump to testify in Trump Organization probe

"These questions will be answered, and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law," AG James says

Published August 25, 2020 2:03AM (EDT)

Donald Trump Jr.; Donald Trump; Eric Trump (Getty/Jeff J. Mitchell)
Donald Trump Jr.; Donald Trump; Eric Trump (Getty/Jeff J. Mitchell)

New York Attorney General Letitia James has taken new legal action in an ongoing civil investigation into whether President Donald Trump's private business unlawfully manipulated the value of its assets in order to secure loans or other tax and financial benefits, asking a state court to compel the deposition one of the president's adult sons: Eric Trump.

"For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings," James said in a press release. "They have stalled, withheld documents and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath."

James' office asked a New York judge in court documents filed Friday to order Eric Trump to respond to a subpoena after he canceled an agreed-upon deposition last month.

"Eric Trump initially agreed to appear to testify on July 22, balking less than two days before he was scheduled by agreement to give testimony," the filing said. 

James' office said its the probe began after Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen told Congress in February 2019 that the president had inflated his worth in financial statements. The subpoenas are part of an "ongoing confidential civil investigation into potential fraud or illegality," and investigators have not yet made a determination of whether they believe any laws were broken.

The Trump Organization's chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told Reuters that the company had tried to cooperate with James, a Democrat, and pointed to the approaching election as motivation for the subpoenas in the 18-month-old investigation.

"The Trump Organization has done nothing wrong," Garten said. "The NYAG's continued harassment of the company as we approach the election (and filing of this motion on the first day of the Republican National Convention) once again confirms that this investigation is all about politics."

James' office said Eric Trump was "intimately involved" in at least one of the transactions under investigation, and he would have "no plausible basis" preventing testimony.

"These questions will be answered, and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law," the attorney general said. 

State prosecutors are looking into four properties, the statement said, in particular a 212-acre property called Seven Springs Estate in northern Westchester County, an affluent suburb of Manhattan. The estate received a $21.1 million tax deduction in 2015 related to the donation of a "conservation easement" following Donald Trump's two-decade failure to build a golf course or residential housing on the property. 

Other properties being probed include 40 Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. The latter property, which towers a quarter-mile over the Chicago River, has been "omitted" from Donald Trump's "Statement of Financial Condition" since 2009, according to the attorney general's office.

Trump has endeavored to block Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance from subpoenaing eight years of his tax returns in connection with a criminal investigation at the city level. Vance's office agreed Monday that it would not enforce a subpoena for Trump's financial records until after a federal appeals court rules on Trump's request for a stay. That hearing is slated for Sept. 1.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Trump was not be immune from Vance's investigation.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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