Trump says he will testify Wednesday in NY investigation

Former President Donald Trump will be questioned under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul, he confirmed in a post on his Truth Social account.

Trump’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, which came just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal investigation into whether he took classified documents when he left the White House.

The civil investigation in New York, led by Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misreported the value of valuable assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.

“In New York City tonight. Seeing the racist NYS Attorney General tomorrow, what a continuation of the biggest witch hunt in US history! Writing on Truth Social, Trump invoked his oft-repeated claims about James, who is black, and the investigation.

“My great company, and I, are under attack from all sides,” Trump added. “Banana Republic!”

Messages seeking comment were left with James’ office and with Trump’s lawyer.

Trump’s testimony comes at a critical point in James’ investigation, midway through a pivotal week in his post-presidency.

In May, James’ office said it was nearing the end of its investigation and that investigators had gathered significant evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both.

The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.

Two of Trump’s grown children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, have testified in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. The individuals were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s testimony had originally been scheduled for last month, but was delayed following the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of Ivanka Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, who took a deposition in James’ investigation in 2020.

On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will be in court to seek dismissal of the tax fraud charges brought against them last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s parallel criminal case.

James, a Democrat, has said in court filings that her office has uncovered “substantial” evidence that Trump’s company “used fraudulent or deceptive valuations to obtain a variety of financial benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax credits.”

James claims that the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misrepresented the value of land to reduce its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements provided to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the world’s billionaires .

The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.

Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to disrupt my business dealings and the political process.”

“IT IS NO MATTER!” Trump said in a statement in February, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had “the clear right” to question Trump and other principals at his company.

While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has long pursued a parallel investigation.

That investigation appeared headed for possible criminal charges, but slowed after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, took office in January.

A grand jury that had heard evidence was disbanded. The top lawyer handling the investigation resigned after Bragg raised questions internally about the case’s viability.

Bragg has said his investigation is continuing, meaning Trump can invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions from James’ investigators.

According to the subpoena issued by James’ office, Trump was to appear in person at the attorney general’s office, located in a Manhattan office tower that has doubled as the headquarters of the fictional conglomerate Waystar Royco on HBO’s “Succession.”

As vociferous as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say that same strategy could backfire in a deposition setting because anything he says could potentially be used against him or his company in the criminal investigation. No former president has even been charged with a crime.

In the fight to block the subpoenas, attorneys for the Trumps argued that New York authorities used the civil investigation to obtain information for the criminal investigation and that the depositions were a ploy to avoid subpoenaing them before a criminal grand jury, where state law requires that they granted immunity.

Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered by James’ office, the Manhattan attorney’s office filed charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation.

Weisselberg and the company have pleaded guilty.

Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ lawyers during separate depositions in 2020, according to court papers.

The former president could choose to do the same, but it is likely that “he will claim a lack of knowledge on many issues,” said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers.

That could be a successful strategy, since Trump is known as more of a “big picture guy,” Gillers said. “So he will answer the big questions, and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers will hope.”

“On the other hand, his drive makes him a lawyer’s nightmare, and his arrogance can lead him astray. Anyone who questions him will encourage that,” the professor added.

Once her investigation is concluded, James may decide to file a lawsuit seeking financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on their involvement in certain types of businesses.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

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