Trump Faces Questions About His Net Worth in Interview: For years, Donald Trump has freely bragged about his wealth, a topic that is dear to his heart and ego. He once said that his position on the Forbes billionaires list would be better if he were worth $10 billion rather than $4 billion. He said in court that he was “as accurate as I think I can be” when discussing the worth of his brand. And he used a word that has stuck with him ever since to characterize his conceited manner in his book “The Art of the Deal”: “truthful hyperbole.”
But as part of a probe that might impact the future of his family’s real estate company, Trump will now be questioned while under oath about that practice of exaggeration. The New York state attorney general’s office is slated to examine the former president and his oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, later this month as part of a civil inquiry into whether he and his firm falsely overstated the worth of their assets. Donald Trump Jr., his son, reportedly had an interview last week, according to someone with knowledge of the situation.
In court documents, Letitia James, the attorney general, said that the Trump Organization engaged in “fraudulent or deceptive” business activities for many years. She claimed that her detectives needed to speak with Trump to find out who was to blame. Trump fought valiantly to avoid being interviewed, but a court ordered him to do so. Investigators will try to elicit responses from him that might indicate if he authorized any false assessments of the value of his hotels, golf courses, and other assets.
Trump, who is also the subject of a separate criminal investigation into the same concerns, may incur high costs even if he makes a single mistake during the deposition. Although the Manhattan district attorney’s office probe lost steam early this year, investigators intend to study Trump’s responses, and any damning or awkward comments might give it new life.
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Trump has dismissed James’ investigation as a “witch hunt” with political overtones and has denied any wrongdoing. According to testimonies from those who have questioned the former president under oath in the past and a study of over a dozen depositions, the former president, who is used to being deposed, will provide unique difficulties and possibilities for James’ attorneys. He struggles to maintain his composure before his interrogators and is eager to argue, once calling a lawyer’s inquiries “extremely foolish.”
Due to the deposition, Trump is in a difficult position since his attempt to rig the 2020 election is coming under more and more judicial scrutiny. A House committee has uncovered new information about his actions following the election, federal prosecutors looking into the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 are interviewing witnesses about him, and a district attorney in Georgia has called a grand jury to look into potential election meddling by Trump and his allies.
The interviews will signal the conclusion of James’ three-year civil investigation, setting the stage for one of her most important decisions: whether to sue Trump and his business. James had the option first to settle with the former president’s attorneys to obtain a quick cash payoff since he knew that filing a lawsuit would likely result in several additional years of legal fighting without a guarantee of success.
Trump has long said he will run for president in 2024, but if James files a case and loses at trial, a court may impose harsher financial sanctions and even limit his ability to conduct business in New York. James, a Democrat seeking reelection, has taken up the position as Trump’s primary foe in New York.
As she fought to get the former president’s records and testimony, she also recently adopted an unusually aggressive legal strategy, including convincing Judge Arthur F. Engoron to hold him in contempt of court.
Despite being a win for James, the depositions might not turn up a smoking gun. Invoking his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, Trump may claim that he outsourced the assessment of his assets to staff members and was not directly engaged. Or, he could refuse to answer at least some questions. However, some familiar with Trump’s strategy in court disputes voiced doubt that he would remain silent.
In civil lawsuits like the one James would bring, a jury may infer a negative conclusion about a defendant based on their failure to answer questions, unlike in criminal trials. Additionally, if Trump invokes the Fifth Amendment privilege, as his son Eric Trump did in an interview with James’ office two years ago, it might raise concerns about what he could be trying to conceal and provide his political opponents with new material.
The Fifth Amendment rights of witnesses have been mocked by Trump, who once said, “You see the Mob takes the Fifth,” and “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
James wants to know if Trump’s annual financial reports were a fabrication, inflated to increase the worth of his real estate so he could get better loans and other economic advantages. James is looking into whether Trump and his firm overstated values to deceive banks and the IRS after claiming that Trump “was caught” using “funny figures in his financial statements.”
Trump Faces Questions About His Net Worth in Interview He Tried to Avoid https://t.co/unPBxHtrm3
— Stephen Merelman (@Smerelman) August 2, 2022
Trump’s legal team would probably contend in James’ challenge that he was entitled to some latitude in evaluating his real estate. This procedure is generally regarded as more an art than a science. According to the disclaimers in his financial filings, the worth of Trump’s properties was not audited or certified. Trump’s attorneys can also contend that the banks that received his financial statements were hardly the victims because they profited financially from interacting with Trump, who had just repaid some of his most considerable debts, and they had gained millions.
James’ potential legal action could be flawed in other ways as well: Trump is infamous for not using email, so whatever instructions he may have given his staff on preparing the financial statements were likely not provided in writing. Trump has experience taking depositions in private litigation throughout his half-century in the public eye and is not a rookie when answering questions under oath. In response to a question about the number of depositions he had attended in 2012, Trump said, maybe a bit hyperbolically, “over 100.”
Jason A. Forge, who represented the plaintiffs in a case against Donald Trump’s for-profit university, Trump University, and interrogated him under oath, described Trump as “totally fearless in a deposition.” Forge asserted that there is “no way” the witness will refuse to answer questions because “he’s a lot more involved than a usual witness, and you can tell he likes the challenge and revels in the verbal sparring.” Trump was, in essence, “the dream deponent,” he said. A settlement was reached in the litigation.
In a 2007 deposition for a case that similarly focused on the worth of Trump’s assets, Trump’s readiness to cooperate may have worked against him. In that case, Trump had sued author Timothy L. O’Brien for publishing a book that raised questions about the extent of his wealth. However, during the deposition, O’Brien’s attorney managed to coax out several admissions from Trump, who acknowledged that “Even my Feelings Affects My Value To Myself” and that his net worth “can vary from day to day” and that he determined it by gauging “My General Attitude At The Time.” “And as I said, it varies,” he continued.
“Have you ever made comments regarding your properties that were exaggerated?” O’Brien’s attorney enquired of him. I believe that everyone does, Trump retorted. A court ultimately rejected Trump’s case. The ongoing criminal investigation into the same conduct will provide the former president with an additional reason to refrain from answering James’ inquiries. Early this year, that investigation vanished from public view after Alvin L. Bragg, the district attorney, decided not to charge Trump.
Trump’s relationship with his longstanding accounting company, Mazars USA, which created his annual financial statements, is another topic that James’ investigators are sure to question him about. James made known that Mazars had severed connections with Trump in February.
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