New York attorney general to investigate Trump over claims he 'inflated assets'

24 August 2020, 20:46

President Trump is being investigated by the New Yrok attorney general
President Trump is being investigated by the New Yrok attorney general. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

New York's attorney general has asked a court to enforce subpoenas for an investigation into whether President Donald Trump and his businesses inflated assets on financial statements.

Attorney General Letitia James filed a petition in state trial court in New York City naming the Trump Organisation, an umbrella group for the president's holdings, as a respondent along with other business entities.

The filing also named Eric Trump and Seven Springs, a New York estate owned by the Trump family.

The attorney general's office is investigating whether the Trump Organisation and the president improperly inflated the value of assets to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

Investigators are looking into whether the Trump Organisation and its agents improperly inflated the value of the Seven Springs north of the city.

In the court filings, the attorney general's office wrote that "information regarding the valuation of Seven Springs is significant" to the office's investigation.

The investigation was launched in March 2019 after President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that the president had inflated the value of his assets to obtain more favourable terms for loans and insurance coverage.

Since then, the attorney general's office has issued "a number of subpoenas and has taken testimony seeking information material to these matters", the court filing said.

Investigators have not yet determined whether the law was broken.

It comes after the president condemned the long-running quest for access to his financial records as a "continuation of the most disgusting witch hunt in the history of our country".

Mr Trump is the only president in modern times who has refused to make his tax returns public.

Before he was elected he had promised to release them.

Mr Trump's lawyers have said that the request for tax records dating back to 2011 was retaliatory after the president's company, the Trump Organisation, disputed the scope of a subpoena seeking records from June 1 2015 until September 20 2018.

That time span pertains to an investigation related to payoffs to two women - porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal - to keep them quiet during the 2016 presidential campaign about alleged extramarital affairs with Mr Trump.

The president has denied the affairs.

Mr Trump, through his lawyers, has argued that the subpoena was issued in bad faith, might have been politically motivated and amounted to harassment of him, especially since the wording mimicked the language in congressional subpoenas.

Mr Vance's lawyers said they were entitled to extensive records to aid a "complex financial investigation" and they cited in their papers public reports of "extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organisation".

In July, the Supreme Court rejected Mr Trump's arguments that he cannot even be investigated, let alone charged with any crime, while he is in office.

But the court left open the prospect that Mr Trump could make new arguments in a bid to keep the subpoena from being enforced.

Also in July, the Supreme Court kept a hold on banking and other documents about Mr Trump, family members and his businesses that Congress has been seeking for more than a year and returned the case to a lower court.