The New York AG Will Finally Get What She’s After in Trump Org Probe

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After six months of squabbling and dirty laundry airing in court, New York Attorney General Letitia James will finally get what she’s been after: the ability to depose former President Donald Trump under oath.

And not only will she get Trump, she’ll also get to grill two of his adult children—Don Jr. and Ivanka—about alleged bank and tax fraud at the Trump Organization.

On Wednesday, attorneys on both sides signed an agreement that would have the trio travel to New York City for a deposition on July 15. Investigators will ask them about their roles in the Trump Organization’s routine practice of massively inflating its corporate property values, which allegedly allowed them to acquire bank loans on more favorable terms in some cases and dodge taxes in another.

The AG’s office initially sent subpoenas to them in December 2021 for depositions the following month. But the Trumps refused to show up. That led Justice Arthur F. Engoron to order them to testify and hold Trump himself in contempt of court—a historic move that showed how a state court judge could effectively hold the former president accountable in a way that federal investigations and Congress have failed.

Judge Orders Trump to Pay Up for Missing Evidence

In the months since, Engoron has ratcheted up the pressure by forcing Trump to pay $110,000 in fines for withholding evidence from state investigators.

Shortly after the agreement was signed on Wednesday, Engoron held a court hearing during which both sides argued over whether the contempt punishment could finally be lifted. However, assistant attorney general Andrew Amer noted that Trump had somehow managed to play yet another game by sending investigators on a wild goose chase. The law enforcement office is trying to figure out why certain documents they sought have been destroyed, and he felt that Trump’s explanation didn’t hold up. Amer pointed to the way Trump signed an affidavit last month, saying that only his executive assistants—not himself—knew what happened.

“Since at least January 1, 2010, it has been my customary practice to delegate document handling and retention responsibilities to my executive assistants,” read an affidavit Trump signed on May 6.

However, when investigators went ahead and asked Trump’s long-time assistant Rhona Graff about that on May 31, they learned that Trump would sometimes initial certain documents and other department heads were the ones who’d figure out what to do with those notes—which were often yellow Post-Its that would get ripped up and chucked in the trash.

“It’s extremely important to understand what the relevant document destruction and retention policies were… particularly here when we are repeatedly told they searched high and low and found not documents,” Amer said during a virtual hearing, noting that Trump told “an incomplete story.”

Trump Organization Accused of Hiding Witness Who Knew if Trump Lied

In response, Trump’s lawyer railed against the investigation. His lawyer, Alina Habba, said the investigation had devolved into an endless campaign that has cost the former president too much time and money and continually kept him “harassed”—with the now ever-present threat of a contempt finding over the former president’s head.

“We have produced over 6 million pages of documents… have held $110,000 in escrow… they want to investigate back to the day he was born, effectively,” Habba said. “We’re being held at gunpoint… they just want more. It’s not right, your honor.”

“That’s not how I would look at it,” the judge responded. “We’re not talking about physical violence here.”

When the judge’s principal law clerk, Allison R. Greenfield, pressed Habba on why the company continues to dodge explanations on the missing documents, the defense attorney responded with what’s become her typical combative style.

“Quite frankly, I know where you stand on this. That’s very clear,” Habba said.

The judge reminded Habba that New York’s “executive law gives the attorney general the ability to conduct this type of investigation” but credited her for managing a difficult situation for her client, who is also the target a similar joint criminal investigation by both New York AG Letitia James and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

At the end of the hearing, Engoron decided the former president will remain in contempt—at least until several Trump Organization employees are willing to sign affidavits by next week explaining the company’s policy for keeping or destroying paperwork.

The AG’s investigation has been heating up in recent months, as James nears the eventual decision whether to formally seek to dissolve the Trump Organization for allegedly violating the state’s business rules.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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