New York attorney general Letitia James said Monday that her office is continuing to actively investigate alleged inflation and deflation of the Trump Organization’s real estate values in an effort to evade state tax liability and gain other financial benefits.
James also said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Manhattan Attorney’s Office to obtain former President Donald Trump’s income tax return and other financial records for eight years as part of a criminal investigation would not affect their own ongoing civil investigation.
This decision, made on Monday, “does not change the tenor of our lawsuit,” James said in an interview for the New York Times’ DealBook DC Policy Project.
“We will continue our investigation and will announce our results when we are finished,” said James.
James also said the Supreme Court’s decision would not mean that her office would receive Trump’s tax filings from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., who is expected to receive it this week from the former president’s accounting firm through a grand jury subpoena.
“There is a wall separating the two offices,” she said.
The Supreme Court in its ruling denied Trump’s petition for an appeal to be heard against decisions by lower courts confirming the legality of the subpoena issued at Vance’s request.
James noted that “we received information ourselves”.
“We’re checking the Trump Organization’s tax information,” said James.
This tax information, which could include property tax records, is different from the former president’s income tax returns, which he always kept secret.
There is an overlap in the focus of the two probes, which are among the biggest legal threats Trump faces a month after leaving the White House.
Both studies examine how the Trump Organization values real estate assets for different types of transactions.
Both offices are known to have a particular interest in the Seven Springs Estate, located in Westchester County, New York, an area of 212 acres.
The company had applied for a $ 21.2 million tax deduction on the property to grant a conservation measure preventing development on nearly 160 acres of land.
James also examines the valuations of Trump real estate in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
“In our investigation, we look at the fact that, based on the testimony of Michael Cohen, who was the Trump Organization’s advocate and Donald Trump, the Trump Organization raised their taxes to take advantage of insurance companies as well by mortgage companies and then dumped the same fortune to evade New York State tax debt, “said James.
Cohen, who made these allegations during the testimony of Congress in 2019, is known to collaborate with Vance’s criminal investigation.
While James noted several times that her investigation was civil in nature, she hinted that this could change.
“At this point, until we uncover illegal behavior, our investigation will continue as a civil matter,” she said.
James had repeated success in court by forcing the Trump Organization to cooperate with its investigation despite objections.
In late January, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ordered the Trump Organization to give James’ investigators a series of documents they had requested.
A judge had previously directed Trump’s son, Eric Trump, who runs the company with his brother, to answer questions from James’ investigators before the presidential election, not after what Eric asked.
Trump beat up both James and Vance as well as the Supreme Court, three of which nine members he had appointed, in a statement on Monday.
Trump has called both probes witch hunts and denies any wrongdoing.
“The new phenomenon of ‘headhunting’ prosecutors and AGs trying to defeat their political opponents using the law as a weapon is a threat to the very foundation of our freedom,” Trump said.
“This is being done in third world countries. Worse still are those who run for prosecutors or attorneys-general in states and jurisdictions on the far left and pledge to eliminate a political opponent. This is fascism, not justice – and that is exactly what they are. ” I try to do it with respect for myself, except that the people in our country will not stand up for it. “
When asked by DealBook columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin if she was surprised that Trump did not pardon himself before leaving office, James said, “I am never surprised at the behavior of the former President of the United States.”
“There have been some rumors of ‘secret pardons’,” added James. “I dont know.”
When asked if she personally believed Trump pardoned himself and not made that fact public, James said, “I really don’t know. We’ll see.”
“There’s been a lot of speculation, but it’s all speculation,” she told Sorkin, who is co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.
Even if Trump pardoned himself and found such a pardon legal under the Constitution, it would not protect him from civil sanctioning by James or prosecuted by Vance or Fulton County, Georgia, DA, who are investigating whether Trump is investigating breaking the law by pressuring the Georgian Foreign Secretary to “find” him enough votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election there.
Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state crimes.
James had urged the successful passage of a law in 2019 that would close New York’s so-called double-exposure gap, which in some cases was seen as a potential obstacle to prosecutors filing criminal charges against a person who had received a presidential pardon.