The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: letitia james

Ivanka Trump Tried To Dodge Her Court-Appointed Financial Monitor

Ivanka Trump, daughter and ex-aide of former President Trump, tried and failed to keep her finances — and hers only — away from the prying eyes of a court-appointed financial monitor tasked with scrutinizing the Trump Organization’s transactions and those of entities connected to it, The Daily Beast reported Monday, citing anonymous sources.

According to the Beast, Ivanka Trump’s attorneys sent private letters to Justice Arthur Engoron, the New York state judge who ordered the financial supervision in the state’s ongoing lawsuit against the Trump company, asking to be exempt from the monitor’s scrutiny, a step her brothers, Don. Jr. and Eric, didn’t take.

Engoron summarily ignored Ivanka’s private plea and — in a bold ruling on Thursday — said the Trump Organization had just two weeks to provide "a full and accurate description of the corporate structure” to the monitor, retired judge Barbara Jones, giving her a window into the company’s “financial disclosures to any persons or entities."

The Trump family must also provide the judge a 30-day advance notice before moving any assets, Engoron ruled, citing the audacious founding of a Trump Organization II in Delaware, “the shell company capital of the country,” according to the Beast.

New York Attorney General Letitia James requested a monitor to supervise the Trump family company’s finances until her civil suit against the organization — the culmination of her three-year-long investigation into its business practices — goes to trial.

In her over 200-page-long filing, James’ office alleged widespread fraud by Trump, his company, and the offspring he made its executives — participants in an over ten-year-long effort to bloat the former president’s finances to get favorable loan agreements.

Seeking $250 million in penalties from the Trump Organization, in a motion filed last month, James asked for the company to be barred from offloading its assets ashore and conducting any kind of “significant fraudulent and illegal business,” ensuring that “funds are available to satisfy any disgorgement award.”

Ivanka Trump — who has sought to distance herself from her father’s political operations, most recently his announcement of a 2024 presidential bid— is a defendant in James’ suit even though her name hasn’t come up in recent court hearings, the Beast noted.

“I love my father very much. This time around, I am choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family,” Ivanka told Fox News, excusing her absence from her father’s announcement. “I do not plan to be involved in politics.”

In the Trump family’s attempt to stave off Engoron’s ruling via appeal filing, Ivanka’s lawyers made a personal argument to get her off the hook, saying that she had not been involved with the company for over five years.

“Ms. Trump submits this separate affirmation to set forth with specificity the reasons why the trial court erred in including Ms. Trump in the Order in her individual capacity… there was no legal or factual basis to issue the Order against Ms. Trump,” her lawyers argued.

“Ms. Trump has had no involvement for more than five years… Ms. Trump has had no role as an officer, director, or employee of the Trump Organization or any of its affiliates since at least January 2017… NY AG never intended to impose an injunction against Ms. Trump,” the attorneys added.

In her tenure as a White House adviser, Ivanka Trump raised myriad ethics red flags, and as a Trump Organization executive before that, she was — as described by James in a court filing for Ivanka’s refusal to testify in January — a "key player in many of the [Trump company’s] transactions."

Beyond Unhinged: How Trump Confessed To Bank Fraud On 'Hannity'

With just about anything attached in any way to Donald Trump, you don’t even know where to start. But his Wednesday night interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News is in a class of exactly one. I looked for a transcript online, so I could quote from the interview, but there isn’t one. In fact, it’s hard to find the whole thing from beginning to end, because it’s such a target-rich environment. Nearly all the sources featuring the interview just run their favorite clips.

Where do you start? We’ve all heard about Trump’s out-of-the-blue speculation that the FBI searched Mar a Lago because they were looking for Hillary Clinton’s emails. We’ve heard his explanation of the process of declassification of secret documents just by “thinking about it.” But receiving far less coverage has been his rant against New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a 222-page lawsuit on Wednesday against Trump, his three adult children, and the Trump Organization for fraud, lying on official documents, and a whole host of other charges.

So, let’s start right there. Trump complains that James has been out to get him for years. “Her whole campaign was based on this, and then she came after us,” Trump began, in response to yet another gelatinous question from lapdog Hannity. “We’ve been going over this for years, and I actually thought because our values are really high, the company is great, like places like this [turns to indicate the gold-leaf ornamentation on the wall behind him] so many other places that I have like this, frankly, I mean, just to do among the finest places in the world, I actually thought that they would never bring a case, and she brought it. And the reason I thought she didn’t have a case, I was of the impression she wanted to settle, but I had a problem because how do you pay something even it’s a small amount of money if you’re not guilty?”

It was on September 15 that Trump’s lawyers sat down with the Office of the New York Attorney General and tried to settle the case before it was filed. Exactly one week later, Trump acts all surprised that this terrible thing has happened to him.

As he sat there talking to Hannity amidst the splendor that is Mar a Lago, Trump was aware that his company is set to go to trial next month on criminal tax fraud in Manhattan, “a case that could expose the company to steep financial penalties if it is convicted,” the New York Times reported.

But let’s go back to the interview, as Hannity surprises us with a question that verges on a modicum of specificity even as it seeks to set Trump up to deny a primary aspect of the case against him, that he inflated the value of his properties in order to qualify for hundreds of millions in loans, $300 million from Deutsche Bank alone: “Did you ever in your life fill out a loan application while in the Trump organization?” Hannity pleads.

“Well, you know, we make loans, but I have very little debt,” Trump lies with an approximation of a straight face. And yet he persists. Hannity somehow manages to get out, “Here’s what I want to tell you,” before being interrupted by Trump with this: “They’ve demeaned me for years with this stuff, and now they find out I have very little debt.”

Hannity then proceeds to help Trump craft a defense: “I was told that in your financial statements, when you make a loan application, and you can confirm if you know this or do not know this, do you put in a caveat that actually says, these are all valuations because I don’t know a lending institution, a financial institution, that would lend money to anybody, and just go by the borrower’s estimation of valuation of a particular property. So if you’re buying a $100 million property and you’re putting X, Y, and Z up for leverage, you estimate its value at this, and they estimate it as this, don’t they have a fiduciary before they give you that amount of money, so that they determine what the value is?”

Trump relaxes. He’s in his element. He has an obsequious pretender at his feet who doesn’t know anything even close to what he knows about the world of big finance and billionaire-ness: “First of all, these are banks that have the best law firms in the world, the biggest and best and most powerful…they do their own work, they don’t rely on us. But what we do is, we have a disclaimer and we put this as my people put it together, I would look at it, and it looked fine, but it’s not overly important. What’s important is the property. I have the best property. We have a disclaimer, Sean, right on the front, and it basically says, you know, get your own people, you’re at your own risk, this was done by management, it wasn’t done by us, it was done by management, so don’t rely on the statement that you’re getting. And by the way, it goes on for like a page and a half, it’s a very big disclaimer, it’s a very powerful disclaimer.”

This is Trump acting out what he has told the “best law firms in the world, the biggest and best and most powerful,” basically telling them how to do their jobs, because, you know, I’m Trump and I know all about this stuff.

Hannity presses on, agreeing with Trump that the lenders have their own valuations, “they’ve got their own bosses and shareholders they have to answer to,” because it’s not your fault, it’s the fault of these biggest, bestest, most powerful people you’re dealing with.

Leaning forward, again indicating the gilded magnificence of the room at Mar a Lago, Trump confidently says, “So they would look at a property like this, I don’t even have a mortgage on this property, I don’t have a mortgage on most of my properties,” says the man who has signed away practically everything he owns to Deutsche Bank to get the money he’s living on.

“You know, I used to read where he’s overextended, he has so much money he borrowed, and I’m saying, what are they talking about? But actually, the one good thing is that people see what a great company I built. I built a great company. A powerful company. A company that’s very lowly-leveraged, with among the best assets anywhere in the world, and you look at this asset, and she has this down to $75 million dollars, I can tell you, it’s many times that number. She said, oohh, he evaluated it at 75 or whatever it is, and she valued it at 75, or whatever it is, this is Letitia James, no, but if I were going, I don’t even have a mortgage on this property, but if I was going to put a mortgage on this property, the institutions are going to be coming over, they’re going to be going through comparable properties all over Palm Beach or wherever it is, Miami, we have them all over, we have tremendous properties…”

Are you following this? This is Mar-a-Lago he’s talking about. Trump has been charged in the New York lawsuit with overvaluing his properties to use them as collateral for loans. Letitia James, who did her due diligence and looked up all the comparable properties in Palm Beach, determined that Mar-a-Lago was worth $75 million. The New York attorney general discovered in Trump’s financials that that he valued it at $739 million in order to qualify for loans.

What Trump does, in his roundabout, incoherent interview with Hannity, is take a shovel in hand and dig a big hole and jump into it wearing his blue suit and red tie and black lace-up shoes, when says Letitia James doesn’t have a case against him for overvaluing his properties on loan applications, but look at me! I’m right here on national television and I’m providing all the proof you need that I overstated the value of my properties, in this case, Mar-a-Lago, which isn’t worth what non-billionaire Letitia James said it was worth, but “many times that number.”

These public statements by Trump, made on the same day he was sued in New York State, are all admissible in James’ lawsuit against him. She says he overvalued his properties. Trump’s defense is, no I didn’t, and yet here he is admitting that’s exactly what he did, and he got away with it because the banks with all the best and biggest and most powerful law firms went along with it and loaned him money, so it’s all their fault, not his. And yet it’s Donald Trump’s name on those loan applications Hannity asked him if he filled out, and it’s his name on those valuations, and whether the banks went along with his numbers and loaned him money or not, he attested that what he was putting on those financial documents was true.

That, my friends, is called bank fraud, live on the Sean Hannity show on Fox News for everyone, including Letitia James, to see. And that’s why we need a new word for “unhinged.”

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

Massive Civil Fraud Lawsuit Hits Trump’s Inflated Real Estate Empire

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a $250 million civil lawsuit against Donald J. Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., as well as two Trump executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney, for “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentations,” and seeks to bar any of the Trumps from operating a company in the state of New York ever, or from engaging in any commercial real estate transactions in the state for five years.

“I’m announcing that today we’re filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump for violating the law as part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family, his company,” James said Wednesday morning. “The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us.”


The tweet thread beginning here from AG James lays out the case against Trump.

The suit claims that Trump has regularly inflated the value of pretty much all of his assets—from Trump Tower to Mar-a-Lago to the former Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., in order to secure favorable loan and tax arrangements. For example, the suit alleges that Trump has valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million, when it should have been valued at $75 million.

Trump used that higher valuation, James alleges, ”based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property.”

“Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase—a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements,” the lawsuit said. “The scheme to inflate Mr. Trump’s net worth also remained consistent year after year.”

James is restricted from pursuing criminal charges in the matter, but is referring her findings “to the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, noting that the conduct detailed in the complaint appears to violate federal law, specifically bank fraud and false statements to a bank.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New York Attorney General Sues Trump, Adult Children For Massive Fraud

By Karen Freifeld, Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Donald Trump and his adult children were sued for "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" on Wednesday by New York state's attorney general in a civil investigation into the former U.S. president's business practices, court records showed.

The lawsuit, filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, accused the Trump Organization of wrongdoing in preparing Trump's annual statements of financial condition from 2011 to 2021. It also named the Trump Organization, the former president's son Donald Trump Jr,. and his daughter Ivanka Trump as defendants.

Attorney General Letitia James said Trump and the Trump Organization misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits. She said she was referring allegations of criminal wrongdoing to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Internal Revenue Service.

"With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system," James said in a statement.

The lawsuit marks one of the biggest legal blows for Trump since he left office in January 2021. Trump is considering running again for president in 2024.

James told reporters she is seeking to have the defendants give up all the benefits he obtained from fraud, estimated at $250 million. The lawsuit also seeks to bar Trump and his children from running companies in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from engaging in real estate transactions. James has been conducting a civil investigation into Trump's business practices for more than three years.

The Republican former president has denied any wrongdoing and described James' probe as a politically motivated witch hunt. James is a Democrat. The Trump Organization has called James' allegations "baseless."

Wednesday's lawsuit followed a contentious investigation in which James accused Trump, his company, and some family members of using delay tactics to ignore subpoenas and avoid testifying.

Trump on August 10 declined to answer questions in a lengthy, closed-door deposition at the office of the attorney general, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump agreed to sit for depositions only after court decisions required it.

Another of Trump's children, Eric Trump, invoked the right against self-incrimination more than 500 times in a 2020 deposition.

Trump has been beset with legal troubles since leaving the White House.

The FBI conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Aug. 8 as part of a criminal investigation into his handling of presidential records including classified material.

Trump also faces a criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

He has denied wrongdoing in the various probes.

James' civil probe is separate from a criminal tax fraud probe against the Trump Organization by Manhattan's district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

The company is scheduled to stand trial in October, accused of paying off-the-books benefits to employees. Its former longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, has pleaded guilty and will testify against the company.

James is assisting Bragg in his criminal probe.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

Trump Cancels Paid Rally To Testify In New York Fraud Case

Former President Donald Trump has canceled an appearance at a paid rally on Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina, to testify under oath on the same day -- alongside his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son, Donald Trump Jr. -- in the New York attorney general Letitia James’s probe into his finances, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

The 45th president and a host of prominent conservatives were set to attend the rally, which was organized by the American Freedom Tour, a platform that organizes rally-like events across the United States, according to its website, to celebrate “faith… and God-given American freedoms.”

The American Freedom Tour quietly removed all mention of the mid-July event from its website and cited “unforeseen circumstances” when questioned by news outlets that noticed the mysterious cancellation.

Tickets sold for $9 to $3,955, depending on access to Trump, and the event’s organizers said that it had been postponed and that ticket holders could use their tickets at any other of their tours in the country.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, Fox News pundit and fiancee of Trump Jr., Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Pinal County sheriff Mark Lamb, and far-right political commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza were among a host of Republican personalities that also canceled their appearances at the rally.

The mass cancellation coincided with reports that Trump and two of his children, Trump Jr. and Ivanka, will submit to July 15 depositions by James’s office, which is in the “final phase of her investigation into Mr. Trump and the business practices of his company, The Trump Organization,” the New York Times reported.

Trump and his family had for months prior tried to avoid questioning, arguing through their attorneys that James’s investigation was politically motivated. However, a panel of four judges in the appellate division of the state’s trial court disagreed and compelled the former first family to submit to James’s office’s summons for an interview as part of its probe.

The next American Freedom Tour rally — which, according to its website, is scheduled for August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — will feature the same characters who silently bailed out of Friday’s event. “Come see President Donald J Trump, Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump Jr, Dinesh D’Souza, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Sheriff Mark Lamb and many, many more live and in person,” the website promised.

Making paid speeches to supporters is a money-making venture for the former President, and the American Freedom Tour — the brainchild of Chris Widener, a far-right motivational speaker with a trail of bankruptcy filings — has lined Trump’s pocket with substantial proceeds.

However, the ex-president’s earnings did nothing to prevent the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection from taking him to task in its Tuesday hearing. The committee attempted to tie Trump to the extremists who led the attack on the Capitol and accused the former president of witness tempering.

Trump has denied the allegations and derided the congressional panel as partisan and controlled by Democrats.

Appeals Court Rules Trump Must Testify In New York Probe

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump must testify under oath in the New York state attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, an intermediate state appeals court ruled on Thursday.

A four-judge panel unanimously upheld a trial court decision from February enforcing subpoenas for Trump and his two eldest children, Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump, to provide deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation.

"Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings," James said in a statement. "We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law."

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, James said her nearly three-year investigation into the Trump Organization had uncovered significant evidence of possible fraud.

She described what she called misleading statements about the values of the Trump brand and six properties, saying the company may have inflated real estate values to obtain bank loans and reduced them to lower tax bills.

Trump issued a statement earlier this year calling the accusations false and accusing James of a political agenda in targeting him and his family.

Trump and his children have said testifying would violate their constitutional rights because their words could be used in a related criminal probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which James joined last May.

Trump, a Republican, has also accused James of selectively prosecuting him because he is a political enemy. James and Bragg are Democrats.

The appeals court rejected those arguments, saying James reviewed "significant volumes of evidence" before issuing the subpoenas.

"Appellants have not identified any similarly implicated corporation that was not investigated or any executives of such a corporation who were not deposed," the court said of the Trumps. "Therefore, appellants have failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from any similarly situated persons."

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; additional reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Noeleen Walder, Diane Craft, and Bill Berkrot)

Court Enrages Trump By Ruling He Must Pay $10,000 Daily Contempt Fine

Former President Trump will still need to cough up $10,000 a day after a New York appellate rejected his request to stay a contempt of court ruling he incurred after failing to hand documents over for the state attorney general’s investigation of his company, the Trump Organization.

On April 25, Judge Arthur Engoron slapped a $10,000 per day fine on Trump after finding the former president in contempt of court for not turning over documents subpoenaed by the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James.

The timing of Judge Engoron's ruling suggests that Trump now owes upwards of $90,000 in fines, but it isn’t clear if the former president has paid any of it.

Trump’s attorneys asked the appellate court on Monday to pause the fine so that Trump could appeal Judge Engoron’s ruling. However, First Judicial Department Associate Justice Tanya Kennedy dismissed this request on Tuesday, stating that the full court will decide whether to pause the fine later in the month.

This legal blow comes days after Trump lawyer Alina Habba failed to convince Judge Engoron to pause Trump’s daily fine.

The judge rejected a two-paragraph affidavit filed by Habba that Trump didn’t have the documents requested by the state attorney general and, thus, shouldn’t have to pay the fine.

“Notably, [the affidavit] fails to state where he kept his files, how his files were stored in the regular course of business, who had access to such files, what, if any, the retention policy was for such files, and, importantly, where he believes such files are currently located,” Engoron wrote on Friday.

“I am surprised he doesn’t seem to have any documents. They’re all with the organization,” the judge added. “I will consider your request to terminate the fine, but if you don’t hear from me, the clock is still ticking.”

Habba slammed Engoron’s response in a statement, arguing that the judge “completely disregarded the detailed affidavits that demonstrate the meticulous efforts undertaken to effectuate this search” and has “improperly held my client in contempt for a violation that he did not commit,” according to NBC News.

Trump also had his say in a statement, where he labeled the New York courts “biased, unyielding, and totally unfair” and, once again, denounced Letitia James’ civil probe into his company’s business practices as “a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in history.”

New York Attorney General's Probe Of Trump Asset Fraud Is 'Nearly Complete'

The office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, said it has almost completed a civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s “nesting doll” assets.

Investigators told a court Monday that they’re waiting to search two cellphones belonging to former President Trump and two computers owned by his longtime assistant Rhona Graff, per CNN.

“The process is near an end,” said Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel in the attorney general's office.

James’ office hired a third-party firm to search Trump Organization’s files, and it found 151 people or entities that may possess documents sought by the office. Still, Wallace stressed the office’s focus on finding the "most important” pieces of information because, under the statute of limitations, the office had until Saturday to file its lawsuit.

Although the tolling agreement with the Trump Organization will end on Saturday, the attorney general’s office could take several weeks to decide how to proceed with its investigation.

On Monday, New York State Judge Arthur Engoron held Trump in civil contempt for an inadequate response to a subpoena by James’ office and slapped the former president with a $10,000 per day fine — a ruling Trump appealed on Wednesday.

"Given the upcoming end of the tolling agreement we will likely need to bring some kind of enforcement action in the near future to preserve our rights," Wallace said.

Lawyers for the attorney general’s office agreed to a meeting with Trump Organization’s attorneys to, according to Wallace, flesh out what “appropriate resolutions might look like” in a case that has hung for three years over Trump, who has called James a “racist” and the investigation, a “witch hunt.”

In court filings, the attorney general’s office has said it believes Trump Organization made misleading statements and omissions in its financial statements to lenders and insurers to get tax benefits.

Trump and his children, Ivanka Trump and Trump Jr., have failed to cooperate with investigators and appealed an earlier ruling by the same judge demanding they sit for depositions. However, Eric Trump was deposed in 2020, and he invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times.

"The company relies more on its people than its systems," Wallace said to the court, noting that hundreds of entities in the Trump Organization moved millions of dollars around many business units using different accounting systems.

Wallace alluded to Trump’s golf course in Jupiter, Florida, purchased for $5 million in 2012, stuffed into a financial statement with $2 billion of club assets, and suddenly valued by the company at $46 million. Investigators are yet to determine where the extra $41 million originated.

"Each of these assets is like a Russian nesting doll," Wallace added.

A lawyer for Trump Organization, Alina Habba, dismissed Wallace’s claims, arguing that the company’s operations mirror “how real estate companies operate."