New York Attorney General Letitia James is reportedly angling to depose Donald Trump on Jan. 7 in relation to her office's ongoing civil probe of whether the Trump Organization committed financial fraud, according to The Washington Post.
No one close to the matter was willing to go on record about it—not Trump’s spokespeople, not Trump's attorney, and not James' office—which makes her intentions seem all the more real.
James, who on Thursday unexpectedly dropped out of New York's gubernatorial race, had pledged to target Trump in her bid last year to become the state's top law enforcement officer. Both she and the Manhattan district attorney have been investigating whether Trump's family business illegally manipulated property values to both garner lower taxes and secure favorable financial loans.
Though the attorney general's probe has been civil in nature, her office has also contributed information to the district attorney’s criminal investigation. The New York Times reports that, because the attorney general’s civil investigation is running parallel to the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe, Trump could reject a subpoena to sit for the civil deposition on the grounds that it might incriminate him in the criminal case.
“Even if a judge sided with Ms. James, Mr. Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right and decline to respond to questions,” writes the Times.
James is weighing whether to sue the Trump Organization and her request for a deposition with Trump suggests she has reached a critical point in the investigation. Last fall, her office successfully forced Trump's son Eric to sit for a deposition after he initially refused to comply. Trump himself also recently sat for a four-and-a-half hour deposition in a totally different matter related to a group of protesters who sued him for alleged assault by his security guards in 2015. As the Post notes, Trump was also deposed numerous times before taking office in relation to civil suits filed against him and/or his company.
New York prosecutors are particularly interested in the Trump Organization's wildly inconsistent valuations of two properties: 1) a California golf club that the business variously valued at $900,000 and $25 million; 2) and a suburban New York property that Trump alternately said was worth $56 million and $291 million, according to the Post.
The Trump Organization and its CEO, Allen Weisselberg, have already been charged with tax fraud in the joint probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and James. That trial could take place next year in the several months preceding the 2022 midterms.
In James' surprise announcement stepping back from the gubernatorial race, she indicated she would run for reelection as attorney general.
“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general,” James tweeted. "There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job.”