By: Michael R. Sisak
New York’s attorney general recently subpoenaed former President Donald Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., demanding their testimony in connection with a civil investigation into the family’s business practices, according to a court filing made public Monday.
The subpoenas, stemming from Attorney General Letitia James’ yearslong investigation into matters including “the valuation of properties owned or controlled” by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, came to light after James went to court last month seeking to force the Trumps to comply.
The attorney general’s attempt to get testimony from the former president was reported in December, but the court filing Monday was the first public disclosure that investigators were also seeking information from Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.
The Trumps have indicated they will fight the subpoenas and are expected to file court papers through their lawyers seeking to have them thrown out. A similar legal fight played out last year after James’ office subpoenaed the testimony of another Trump son, Eric Trump.
Messages seeking comment were left Monday with lawyers for the Trumps and with the attorney general’s office.
It was reported last month that James had requested that Donald Trump sit for a deposition, but Monday’s court filing was the first public acknowledgement by her office that it had subpoenaed him.
A state court judge who handled past disputes arising from the probe agreed Monday to entertain arguments over the subpoenas, which also seek documents from the Trumps in addition to their testimony.
As the legal fight over the subpoenas was heating up behind the scenes, Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to put an end to her investigation. Trump, in the lawsuit, claimed that James had violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”
In the past, the Republican ex-president has decried James’ investigation as part of a “witch hunt” along with a parallel criminal probe being run by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
James’ investigators last year interviewed Eric Trump, a Trump Organization executive, as part of the probe. James’ office went to court to enforce a subpoena on the younger Trump and a judge forced him to testify after his lawyers abruptly canceled a previously scheduled deposition.
Although the civil investigation is separate from the district attorney’s criminal investigation, James’ office has been involved in both.
Last year, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. gained access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax records after a multiyear fight that twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also brought tax fraud charges in July against the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Before he left office last week, Vance convened a new grand jury to hear evidence in the investigation, but left the decision on additional charges to his successor, Alvin Bragg. The new district attorney has said he’ll be directly involved in the Trump matter while also retaining the two veteran prosecutors who led the case under Vance.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative fringe benefits paid to executives.