Donald Trump was set to be questioned under oath on Wednesday as part of the New York state attorney general Letitia James’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul.
The former US president confirmed the looming legal encounter in a brash post on his Truth Social social media platform.
“In New York City tonight. Seeing racist NYS Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in US history!” Trump wrote, repeating an insult he has repeatedly thrown at James, who is Black and the first woman of color ever to hold a statewide elected office in New York.
“My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides,” Trump also posted, adding: “Banana Republic!”
Secret Service agents and police were seen patrolling the streets close to the attorney general’s office on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan, as the ex-president arrived.
Trump’s testimony comes as he faces a widening number of investigations by state and federal authorities.
On Monday, his Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida was searched by FBI agents. The exact purpose of the raid remains unclear, but was possibly related to classified documents that may have been removed from the White House.
While the former president has sat for numerous depositions over the years, including in several business bankruptcy cases, he has fought hard to avoid giving testimony to James’s investigation. The case involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of assets including some of his golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.
At the heart of the case are claims that Trump has for decades falsely inflated his fortune – a dance that involves publicity, maximizing access to bank loans and minimizing tax obligations. “I look better if I’m worth $10bn than if I’m worth $4bn,” he once said. In his book, The Art of the Deal, he chose to describe his business style as “truthful hyperbole.”
In May, James’s office said that the investigation was nearing its conclusion and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both. The attorney general’s office said Trump’s deposition was one of the few remaining pieces to be collected.
Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr and Ivanka, are believed to have testified in the investigation in recent days. Trump’s testimony was initially scheduled for last month but was delayed after the 14 July death of his ex-wife, Ivana Trump.
Among the Trump Organization’s holdings being examined by James is the Trump International Scotland, an Aberdeenshire golf resort. Trump purchased the 2,000-acre site in 2006 for $12.6m. Five years later it was valued by the Trump Organization at $161m. By 2014, it was put at $436m.
The steep rise in value caught James’s attention. “We have a covered significant evidence that suggests Donald J Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit,” James’s office said in a filing earlier this year.
James added that it appeared the valuation “used for Mr Trump’s financial statement was prepared for purposes of providing information to Forbes magazine in a quote”.
Also under scrutiny is the Seven Springs Estate, a parcel of land in Westchester, New York, purchased in 1995 for $7.5m. By 2004 it was valued at $80m and by 2014 at $291m. That 2014 figure included a valuation of $161m for “seven non-existent mansions”, James said.
Her office also claims that the Trump Organization even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size and overstated its value by $200m.
Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry.
“THERE IS NOT MARRIED!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’s office had “the clear right” to question Trump and other principals in his company.
While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has been pursuing a parallel investigation. However, it ran into problems after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, raised questions internally about the viability of the case and its lead prosecutors resigned.
Bragg has said the investigation is continuing and on that basis Trump could invoke his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions from James’s investigators.
When the investigation wraps up, James could decide to bring a lawsuit and seek financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses – as happened in a previous legal clash with James when, in 2019, he was fined $2m for misuse of charitable assets and barred from running a charity in the future.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism