With their backs pressed against the wall by two simultaneous tax-dodging investigations in New York, the Trump dynasty is starting to hit back.
On Monday afternoon, copies of subpoenas and details about the investigation were exposed in court documents filed by attorneys for former President Donald Trump and his adult kids—Don Jr. and Ivanka. The trio are trying to avoid being forced to testify under oath in a civil investigation, saying their statements will simply be used in a parallel criminal investigation that could threaten them with prison time.
“The [office of the attorney general] is engaged in a criminal investigation that has an active Grand Jury. It cannot issue subpoenas for testimony under the guise of a civil investigation that will immediately become available—to its own… criminal investigation,” they said in a court filing.
Earlier in the day, court documents were made public showing that New York Attorney General Letitia James had set her sights on the former president and his two children for refusing to cooperate with her civil probe into potential tax dodging and bank fraud. Although these kinds of investigations tend to be quiet matters until a formal lawsuit is filed—or both sides reach a settlement—this is starting to become an airing of dirty laundry.
As such, the Trump family has used this as an opportunity to start exposing details about the AG’s investigation.
There is another ongoing grand jury in New York looking into criminal matters related to the Trump Organization, proving that the investigation didn’t stop with the indictment of company chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg last summer. And it’s now clear that New York state investigators want the former president to turn over information about the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, his forested Seven Springs Estate north of New York City, and donations made to land conservation causes that could lower his tax bill.
Investigators also want copies of communications Trump had with Forbes magazine about his wealth and any financial documents he submitted to “insurance underwriters or insurance brokers” valuing his assets. The AG’s office wanted Ivanka to sit down for a deposition on Monday, followed by Don Jr. on Tuesday, and former President Trump on Friday. All these details were revealed in copies of the subpoenas, which were posted in court by the Trumps.
In response, AG James issued a statement Monday night saying, “For more than two years, members of the Trump family and the Trump Organization have continually sought to delay and impede our investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, but despite their names, they must play by the same rules as everyone else.”
Attorneys for the Trumps argue that the New York attorney general is trying to get the Trumps to testify about their wildly varying real estate values in a way that would let investigators use that information in the AG’s current criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, which it’s conducting alongside the Manhattan district attorney.
That accusation hinges on the idea that, in New York, a person who testifies before a grand jury in a criminal case receives immunity from what they reveal, so they’re protected from facing criminal charges. The Trumps say the AG is trying to get information out of them—without the benefit of immunity—by trying to “circumvent the grand jury procedural safeguards of our judicial system.”
“The subpoenas are an obvious improper tend-run around the rules,” said the Trumps’ court filing, which described the AG’s actions as an attempt to “co-mingle” the investigations. “The fact is that the [attorney general’s office] is one, singular agency running a criminal investigation. It may claim to split itself into two to avoid complying with grand jury practice, but this it cannot do.”
In the filing, the Trumps also accused the AG’s office of leaking to reporters that Trump was asked to show up for a deposition on Jan. 7. Last month, The Washington Post broke news that investigators wanted the former president to show up and answer questions at their office in New York City.
“To their credit, [AG] attorneys on this matter apologized to counsel for Mr. Trump. The leak was clearly made from the administration of the [attorney general’s office,”] Trump family attorneys said in one footnote.
The Trumps want the state court judge overseeing the case to eliminate the subpoenas, or at least hold off on enforcing them until the joint AG-DA criminal investigation is over.
The request in court was signed by four lawyers representing the Trumps. The former president is being represented by Ronald P. Fischetti, who made a career defending mobsters, and
Alina Habba, who recently helped him file a federal lawsuit against James. Trump is also being represented by Michael T. van der Veen, who oddly sued Trump—and later defended him during his presidential impeachment. Don Jr. and Ivanka, who are Trump Organization executives, are being represented by company lawyer Alan S. Futerfas.
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