(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump is expected to testify before attorneys for New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter told CNN, pitting the two adversaries against each other after a civil investigation of over three years on the finances of the Trump organization.
It’s unclear whether Trump will answer questions or assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the closed-door testimony.
Trump said in a post on Truth Social early Wednesday morning that he would be “meeting with” James “for a continuation of the largest witch hunt in US history! My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides. Banana Republic!”
The deposition comes during an extraordinary legal week for the former president. On Monday, the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, his primary residence in Florida, in connection with an investigation into his handling of classified documents. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court denied his long-running effort to block a House committee from obtaining his tax returns.
Some Trump advisers have advocated that the former president answer questions since he previously testified about his financial statements under oath, while others have warned him not to give any answers due to the potential legal risk he could face, people familiar with the matter told CNN. affair. The Manhattan District Attorney has a separate ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.
Another consideration that has been discussed, people familiar with the matter say, is the political implications of not answering questions, as Trump is expected to announce that he will run for president in 2024. During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested that not answering questions was a sign of guilt At a campaign stop in Iowa in 2016, Trump said, “If you’re innocent, why do you accept the Fifth Amendment?”
An attorney for Trump declined to comment. A representative for the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s testimony nears the end of a long-running New York state investigation into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities by providing them with misleading financial statements.
In January, James’ office said it found “significant” evidence indicating the Trump Organization used false or misleading asset valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance and tax benefits. The attorney general’s civil investigation is drawing to a close and a decision on an enforcement action may soon be made.
The former president and the Trump Organization have previously denied wrongdoing and called the civil investigation of James, a Democrat, politically motivated. Both James and Trump have traded public criticism.
The standoff follows Trump’s failed attempt to block subpoenas for statements by himself and his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump’s deposition took place last week and Trump Jr. had his deposition in late July, people familiar with the matter said.
Trump Jr., who runs the Trump Organization with his brother Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump failed to assert their Fifth Amendment rights and answered questions from the state, the people said. It is not clear what specifically they were asked or what they said. His decision clashes with that of Eric Trump and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who asserted their Fifth Amendment rights more than 500 times when they deposed in 2020.
Trump has testified under oath in civil lawsuits in recent decades and has also testified since leaving office. Last year he provided videotaped testimony for a lawsuit involving an assault outside of Trump Tower. The case is scheduled to go to trial in the fall. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Trump Net Worth Questions
Trump has been challenged about the accuracy of his net worth and financial statements in previous trials, which some aides say is one reason he should answer questions in the current investigation.
In a 2007 deposition in a defamation lawsuit, Trump once said that he calculated his net worth, to some extent, on his “feelings” and that he put “the best spin” on some of the assets. “I think everyone” exaggerates his property values, he testified, adding: “Who wouldn’t?”
Did you inflate the values? “Not beyond reason,” Trump said.
In the past, Trump has sought to impose responsibility for his valuation decisions on Weisselberg, while at the same time, the documents and statements appear to show that even when Trump claimed that he left those valuation decisions to others, he was also deeply involved in running your business.
Trump said in the 2007 statement that the only person he dealt with in preparing the financial statements was Weisselberg.
“I was giving my opinion,” Trump said in the statement. “We’ll talk about that,” he said, adding that “ultimately” and “predominantly” it was Weisselberg who came up with the final values, which Trump said he considered “conservative.”
When asked specifically about changes in values from year to year, Trump had his explanations ready.
During the statement, Trump was asked about the family compound in Westchester County, New York, called Seven Springs, whose value nearly doubled in one year, from $80 million in 2005 to $150 million in 2006.
“The property had a very low value, in my opinion, so it became very … it’s just gone up,” Trump said.
He was asked if he had any basis for that view other than his own opinion.
“I don’t think so, no,” he said.
In addition to Weisselberg, the Manhattan attorney general’s office and district attorney interviewed two others involved in preparing the financial statements, Jeff McConney, the Trump Organization’s controller, and Donald Bender, the firm’s outside accountant. real estate.
Trump’s lawyers are likely to argue that the financial statements weren’t audited, so anyone who trusts them would be in the know. The financial statements reviewed by CNN show that they have numerous disclosures indicating that they did not conform to generally accepted accounting principles. Also, none of the lenders lost money on the transactions, which could make it more difficult to claim that they were defrauded or misled.
The underlying appraisals for property values were provided in many cases by longtime Trump appraiser Cushman & Wakefield, who is also under investigation. Cushman, who severed ties with Trump after the riots on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, has denied wrongdoing and defends his work.
Legal risks for Trump
The statements pose significant legal risks for the Trumps.
If Trump is sued by James and the case goes to trial, the jury may draw an “adverse inference” against him for not answering questions, which could result in a higher judgment against him if he is found liable. If he answers questions, it could open the door to potential civil and criminal liability.
The criminal investigation, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, has slowed but not stopped. Earlier this year, Bragg did not authorize prosecutors to present evidence to a state grand jury after raising concerns about the strength of the case, CNN reported. A special grand jury hearing in the case expired in April, but a new one could be seated in the future.
Bragg told CNN in an April interview, “Any time there’s a parallel civil and criminal investigation, if there’s testimony in that process, obviously we’ll look at it.”