Donald Trump and two of his children agreed to testify starting July 15 in New York’s probe of potentially fraudulent asset valuations at their real estate company, even as a judge ruled the former president is still in contempt of court.
The agreement on testimony by Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump was outlined in a document filed Wednesday in state court in Manhattan, where New York Attorney General Letitia James sued in 2020 to enforce a series of subpoenas.
James, a Democrat, is investigating whether the Manhattan-based Trump Organization manipulated asset valuations to secure more favorable terms for bank loans and insurance as well as tax breaks.
The scheduling became inevitable after an intermediate appeals court upheld a ruling that the subpoenas for the Trumps’ testimony were valid and not politically motivated. The family members could still avoid the depositions if the state’s highest court issues a stay, which they’ve agreed to request by June 13 if they opt for that recourse, according to the filing.
If the depositions aren’t put on hold, they’ll take place just as Trump is preparing to be questioned under oath for seven hours in a fraud lawsuit brought by investors in a multi-level marketing company that he endorsed for a decade on his reality TV show. Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump are also set to testify for seven hours each in the case.
Trump in contempt
Hours after the agreement was reached, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump was still in contempt for failing to comply with James’s subpoena for documents in his possession. The judge said Trump will be in compliance only once he hands over copies of his company’s record retention policies.
“I just want to get this done, and I think this is the best way to do it,” Engoron said at a remote hearing, in which he denied Trump’s request for the contempt order to be lifted. “I understand we have a slight difference of opinion.”
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Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, told the judge she believed a different client would be treated differently, suggesting the judge’s ruling was politically motivated.
“I just think the opinion is a lot based on who my client is, and that’s concerning,” Habba said.
“I try to take myself out of the equation,” Engoron said. “It’s got nothing to do with me.”
James started the probe of valuations at the Trump Organization after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified to Congress in 2019 that the company had issued fraudulent financial statements.
A major focus of her probe has been the Trump Organization’s appraisal of Seven Springs, a 212-acre estate in Westchester County. Her office has been trying to determine whether the company gave an accurate valuation for the property when it served as the basis for about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.
Trump’s 40 Wall Street skyscraper and his Chicago hotel are also being scrutinized.
The case is New York v. Trump Organization, 2022-00814, Supreme Court of the State of New York (Manhattan). –Bloomberg
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