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New York AG asks court to compel Trumps to testify in financial probe

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New York AG asks court to compel Trumps to testify in financial probe
New York Attorney General Letitia James accused former President Donald Trump of adjusting the value of his Trump Tower penthouse to secure economic benefits. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James took legal action late Tuesday to compel former President Donald Trump and his two eldest children to appear for sworn testimony as part of her civil investigation into the Trump Organization's finances.

James' office said that it's filed a motion to compel, asking a New York County court to enforce subpoenas she previously filed against the former president and his children Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

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The motion on Tuesday night is a response to Donald Trump filing a lawsuit on Dec. 20 to quash the Democratic attorney general's previous orders.

"No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them," James tweeted. "Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have all been closely involved in the transactions in question, so we won't tolerate their attempts to evade testifying in this investigation."

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James opened the investigation more than two years ago when Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that his former client would inflate his value to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance, but deflate assets to lower his taxes.

The former president has argued that the investigation is biased and pursued by a Democrat abusing her investigation powers to target a political opponent.

In the court document filed Tuesday night, James said her office has obtained evidence indicating that the Trump Organization has used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits, detailing six properties for which Trump and his organization have altered their values.

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For the former president's penthouse in Manhattan's Trump Tower, the court documents state that its value of $327 million was based on the assertion it has 30,000 square feet when its actual size is 10,996 square feet.

The other properties include Seven Springs, a 212-acre Westchester County property for which the value dropped from $291 million in 2012 to $56 million following a 2016 valuation, the court document states.

For the Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Trump said in 2014 it was worth more than $435 million, due to assuming the right to build 2,500 luxury homes on the property despite being granted an approval for fewer than 1,500.

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The document says the value of Trump National Golf Course Westchester was increased to reflect initiation fees of members that were not paid and the sale of 32 midrise units that were "put on hold" by the Trump Organization.

Trump Park Avenue and 40 Wall Street are also under scrutiny in the court document for adjusted values, while James said a brand premium was included on top of several properties that fluctuated between 30% and 15% -- despite the fact that Trump's financial statements "explicitly state" the assets "do not incorporate any brand value."

James' office also said it has evidence of misrepresentations to financial institutions, insurance providers and the Internal Revenue Service.

While she has yet to decide on whether the evidence merits further legal action, her office said there are grounds for continuing the investigation.

"We have uncovered significant evidence that suggest Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefits," James said in a statement.

"The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony ... We will not be deterred in our efforts to continue this investigation and ensure that no one is above the law."

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