Court battle looms as questions swirl over Trump’s finances

NEW YORK (AP) — Questions about Donald Trump’s business practices are piling up. Whether the former president is obligated to answer any of them under oath could be decided within days.

The New York attorney general will go to court on Thursday to seek execution of a subpoena for Trump’s testimony in a civil investigation.

The hearing, before State Judge Arthur Engoron in Manhattan, is the next step in a legal battle that has unfolded in court documents over the past few weeks, including the revelation Monday that the long-running accounting firm Trump date recently dumped him after warning that the financial statements he had prepared could not be trusted.

Trump’s lawyers had argued that those financial statements were true and that attempts to distinguish them from what they characterized as minor errors or omissions were politically motivated.

Trump released a lengthy statement on Tuesday evening alleging that the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, severed ties with him because he faced “vicious bullying tactics” from authorities investigating him.

In a letter released for court docket evidence, Mazars urged the Trump Organization on Feb. 9 to advise anyone who received his statement of financial condition, such as banks and insurers, that “these documents should not be relied upon. . ”

The accounting firm said while it found no “material differences” when reviewing the documents, it said the “totality of the circumstances” made it unwise to use them in the future.

The Associated Press contacted several of Trump’s lenders to see what effect, if any, Mazars’ letter would have on Trump’s existing financial arrangements, including the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that investigators say have were obtained using financial disclosure statements. They either didn’t respond or declined to comment, citing policies prohibiting them from talking about customers.

Trump, in his statement on Tuesday, said his net worth is “approximately $8 billion to $9 billion” based on his brand value and “current enthusiasm and transactions that have or will take place.” “, far more than recent estimates from financial publications. Forbes, whose editor testified before a grand jury investigating Trump, estimated his worth at $2.5 billion last September.

Trump went on to praise his company’s “fantastic assets that are unique, extremely valuable, and in many cases far more valuable than what was listed in our financial statements.”

Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement presenting Thursday’s arguments that, given the evidence, including Mazars’ findings, “there should be no doubt that this is a lawful investigation and that we have legitimate reasons” to question Trump under oath.

Trump’s lawyers pointed to Mazars’ statement that he found no material discrepancies in the documents as further evidence that the former president’s company did nothing wrong.

The same legal fight also involves subpoenas James issued to Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., both trusted allies of their father who served as leaders of their family’s Trump Organization. .

In challenging the subpoenas, the Trumps’ lawyers argue that any testimony they give in James’ civil investigation could then be used against them in a parallel and sometimes overlapping criminal investigation – although they may invoke their right to the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, as others in Trump’s orbit have.

James’ investigation itself is civil in nature, meaning she could take legal action and seek financial sanctions against Trump or his company, or even a ban on involvement in certain types of businesses. , as happened last month when a judge banned ex-drug company CEO Martin Shkreli from the pharmaceutical industry for life. Court documents say James has until at least April to decide whether to take legal action.

Engoron, the judge who heard Thursday’s arguments, had previously sided with James on other issues related to the investigation, including calling another Trump son, Trump Organization executive Eric, to testify. Trump, after his lawyers abruptly canceled a scheduled deposition.

Eric Trump and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ attorneys in separate depositions in 2020, court documents show.

Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered during James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged Weisselberg and the Trump Organization with tax evasion, alleging he collected more than $1.7 million dollars in unofficial compensation, including apartment rent, car payments and college tuition. Weisselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.

Trump responded to both New York inquiries by decrying the probes as part of a partisan “witch hunt.” James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are both Democrats.

Last year, Trump lost a years-long fight to block the prosecutor’s office from obtaining his tax returns. In December, he sued James in federal court, seeking to end his investigation.

In court papers ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Trump’s lawyers doubled down on her claim that James was after him for political gain, writing that she had “relentlessly targeted” Trump, his family, company and associates. “due to his dislike of his speech and politics”. views.

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