New York attorney general is now investigating Trump Organization ‘in a criminal capacity’
New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office — which already was conducting a civil investigation of former President Donald Trump’s company — is now also probing the Trump Organization “in a criminal capacity” as well, her spokesman said Tuesday night.
James’ spokesman implied that her probe is being done in conjunction with the criminal investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The 2-year-old civil investigation by the Democrat James already was eyeing allegations that the Trump Organization had manipulated the stated value of real estate assets in order to lower their tax liability and to receive more favorable terms for loans and insurance.
Vance’s office has been conducting a criminal investigation of those allegations, which first were made in congressional testimony by Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen. Vance’s probe also is focused on other issues.
“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature,” said James’ spokesman, Fabien Levy.
“We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA. We have no additional comment at this time,” Levy said.
In late 2019, James scored a legal victory against Trump when a judge ordered him to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit by the attorney general’s office alleging that he had misused his Trump Foundation, a charity, to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign, along with other unlawful activity for more than a decade.
The Trump Foundation agreed in December 2018 to dissolve and to donate its remaining funds to charity as the AG’s probe into the foundation continued.
A spokeswoman from the Trump Organization declined to comment on the change in James’ current probe. A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s son, Eric Trump, executive vice president at the Trump Organization, declined to comment to NBC News.
But Eric Trump texted an NBC reporter a video montage of comments by James, most of which were made during her campaign for attorney general for office in 2018.
In those clips, James called Donald Trump “an illegitimate president” and promised to investigate his company, which in addition to as a commercial landlord operates golf courses and hotels, and licenses the Trump name to other ventures.
“We’re going to definitely sue him,” James says in one video clip. “We’re going to be a real pain in the ass. He’s going to know my name personally.”
In another clip, James said, “We need to focus on Donald Trump and his abuses … We need to follow his money.”
James won her election that year with 62% of the vote, crushing Republican nominee Keith Wofford.
Last November, Trump, who was raised in the Queens section of New York City, received just 37.7% of the vote in the presidential election in New York State, whose 29 Electoral College votes helped give President Joe Biden his margin of victory over the Republican incumbent.
Trump has called the probes by Vance and James witch hunts by two Democratic officials.
James last August filed an ultimately successful court action that forced Eric Trump to answer questions as part of her investigation. Eric Trump runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Donald Trump Jr.
The AG’s investigators also have reportedly taken a deposition from Allen Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Vance’s probe recently has looked into Weisselberg and his two adult sons, one of whom works for the Trump Organization.
Among the real estate holdings that James is known to be eyeing is Seven Springs Estate, a 212-acre property in Westchester County.
The Trump Organization used valuations of Seven Springs to claim an apparent tax deduction of more than $21 million by donating a conservation easement on the property in 2015.
In 2019, the Financial Times newspaper noted that Trump purchased Seven Springs for $7.5 million in 1996, but valued it at more than $290 million in 2012.
Forbes magazine in 2014 said the property was worth less than $19.5 million, citing what were then recent property sales, as well as local real estate brokers and assessors.
James’ office also is investigating the valuations of the Trump building at 40 Wall St. in Manhattan, the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, and the Trump National Golf Club – Los Angeles.
In a statement issued in August, James said, “Nothing will stop us from following the facts and the law, wherever they may lead.”
James at the time accused the Trump Organization of stalling in requests for information, withholding documents, and instructing witnesses, among the Eric Trump, “to refuse to answer questions under oath.”
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court refused a last-ditch request by the former president to block Vance’s investigators from obtaining years’ worth of his tax returns and other financial records via a grand jury subpoena from his long-time accountants.