Letitia James files motion demanding global real estate firm comply with her investigation into ex-president’s business dealings
After she asked the state Supreme Court to hold Donald Trump in contempt for failing to comply with subpoena requests for her probe into his financial dealings, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion to compel a real estate firm that evaluated his properties to cooperate.
Her office has pursued a wide-ranging civil investigation into the Trump family and its New York-based Trump Organization, which she has accused of “fraudulent or misleading” practices, including repeatedly misrepresenting the value of assets, “to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
On 9 April, she asked the state Supreme Court to force Cushman & Wakefield – which handled appraisals for several Trump properties, including the 40 Wall Street skyscraper in Manhattan and Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles – to comply with subpoenas issued in connection with the case.
“Cushman & Wakefield’s work for the Trump Organization is significant to our ongoing investigation into Donald J Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial practices,” Attorney General James said in a statement.
“There should be no doubt that information about Cushman’s appraisal work for the Trump Organization is relevant to our efforts and that Cushman – like any other party – cannot defy a lawful subpoena because no one is above the law,” she said.
The global real estate firm – which has not been accused of any wrongdoing – complied with an earlier subpoena but claims that more recent requests are overly broad.
Ms James has sought information related to appraisals at three Trump properties, including 40 Wall Street, Trump National Golf Club and the Seven Springs Estate in New York’s Westchester County.
According to her office, the firm issued three appraisals for 40 Wall Street to Capital One Bank between 2010 and 2012, valuing the Trump Organization’s interest in the property between $200m and $220m.
Within that same period, Trump’s financial statements valued the property at $601.8m in 2010, $524.7m in 2011, $527.2m in 2012 and $530.7m in 2013, according to the attorney general. The office claims that those valuations were used to obtain loans.
She also claims that the Trump Organization submitted misleading or fraudulent valuations related to Seven Springs and the Los Angeles golf club, which were used to obtain tax deductions.
The firm, which has since cut ties with the former president’s company in the wake of the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, said in a statement that it stands behind its appraisals.
“Any suggestion that Cushman & Wakefield has not responded in good faith to the Attorney General’s investigation is fundamentally untrue,” the firm said. “The Attorney General’s filings do not accurately depict Cushman & Wakefield’s responses to prior subpoenas and inquiries. We stand behind our appraisers and our work.”
On 7 April, Ms James filed a separate motion asking the state Supreme Court to hold the former president in contempt for failing to turn over evidence as part of the investigation, proposing $10,000 daily fines for every day he has refused to comply with a court order.
In February, Judge Arthur Engoron rejected Mr Trump’s attempt to evade the subpoena, and Mr Trump faced a 31 March deadline to produce documents as part of Ms James’s investigation into his financial dealings – a date to which both parties agreed.
“The judge’s order was crystal clear: Donald J Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office,” she said in a statement. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”
In a statement through his Save America political action committee, Mr Trump claimed that the investigation is an “absolute violation” of his civil rights and called Ms James “an operative for the Democrat Party in a political prosecution” and an “embarrassment to our legal system.”