(NewsNation Now) — Since former President Donald Trump left office a year ago, his business dealings have come under intense scrutiny — and been subject to investigations, including a civil investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The latest ruling in this investigation, that Trump has to testify under oath, came down Thursday. Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump and his two oldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., to comply with subpoenas filed by James in December, and now, they must sit for a deposition within 21 days.
“No one will be permitted to stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they are,” James tweeted after the ruling came down. “No one is above the law.”
Here’s a breakdown of what has happened so far in New York State’s civil investigation into Trump’s company:
WHAT IS TRUMP BEING ACCUSED OF?
Court documents filed by James claim the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders, and overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on paperwork submitted to the IRS to get millions of dollars in tax breaks. The filing names the organization itself, along with Eric, Ivanka and Donald Jr., the former president’s children, as well as Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Weisselberg was charged last year with tax fraud.
James’ office says the Trump Organization misreported the size of his Manhattan penthouse, claiming it was almost three times the size it actually was. In court papers, James’ office said the businessman and former “Apprentice” star listed his Seven Springs estate north of New York City as being worth $201 million, but this was based on a dubious assumption that it could reap $161 million from building nine luxury homes. An apartment rented to Ivanka Trump was valued at $25 million, even though she had the option to buy it for $8.5 million, the court filing said. Another residence, a Park Avenue condominium tower, was valued at $350 million, based on proceeds it could reap from unsold units, but those apartments were likely to sell for less because they were covered by rent stabilization laws, James’ office said.
Evidence also shows that Trump’s company inflated the value of a suburban New York golf club by millions of dollars by counting fees for memberships that were not sold or never paid, according to James’ office.
Another accusation James’ office made of the Trump Organization was that it added a brand premium of 15% to 30% to the value of some properties because they had the Trump name, even though financial statements stated they did not incorporate brand value.
WHAT IS THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION?
The Trump Organization is a business entity that encompasses hundreds of firms and partnerships, which own or manage office buildings, golf clubs, licensing deals, hotels and other assets. It was charged in a tax fraud scheme in 2021. Trump resigned from the positions he had in hundreds of Trump Organization entities before taking the presidential oath of office four years ago. However, he is still the sole or principal owner of those businesses and can pull profit from them.
It is currently led by Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr.
WHEN DID JAMES’ INVESTIGATION BEGIN?
After Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress in 2019 that Trump had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets, James’ office started its investigation.
Cohen had served time the year prior for tax crimes, lying to Congress and campaign finance violation. Some of these violations included helping orchestrate payments to two women to keep them from talking about alleged affairs with Trump.
WHAT HAVE THE TRUMPS SAID ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION?
In a statement, the Trump Organization has denied the attorney general’s claims, saying “the only one misleading the public is Letitia James.”
“She defrauded New Yorkers by basing her entire candidacy on a promise to get Trump at all costs without having seen a shred of evidence and in violation of every conceivable ethical rule,” they wrote. “Three years later, she is now faced with the stark reality that she has no case.”
On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. said James should be disbarred. Trump’s lawyers have said Cohen has a vendetta against Trump, and that it “stretches all credibility” to consider that James’ office believed his testimony.
WHAT HAS TRUMP BEEN DOING THIS YEAR?
With the 2024 presidential election looming, many have said Trump is teasing that he’ll run again. Although his popularity with Republicans is declining— only a narrow majority, 56%, want him to run in 2024, according to an AP-NORC/USAFacts poll— those around him say he’s looking to the future, the Associated Press reported. He’s huddled with aides, and held a rally earlier this year in Houston.
TIMELINE OF OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION
2019 – The New York Attorney General’s office starts investigating whether Trump’s company misled banks and tax officials about the value of his assets after Cohen testifies that Trump had a history of doing so. James subpoenas real estate services firms, law firms and the Trump Organization, and her investigators interview Trump’s son Eric and Weisselberg, among others.
June 2021- Prosecutors consider filing criminal charges following a long-running investigation into Trump’s business dealings.
July 1, 2021 – The Trump Organization and Weisselberg are charged in a tax fraud scheme. According to the indictment, from 2005-2021, the Trump Organization and Weisselberg cheated tax authorities by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books with lucrative fringe benefits. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. His compensation included apartment rent, car payments and school tuition. Donald Trump is not charged with any wrongdoing in that case, however.
Dec. 9, 2021- The Washington Post reports that James is seeking a deposition from the former president as part of an investigation into potential tax fraud at the Trump Organization.
Jan. 19, 2022 – James says a civil investigation uncovered evidence that Trump and his company used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of its properties to get loans and tax benefits. While she said her office has not decided whether to bring a lawsuit forward, James did say that investigators should be able to question Trump and his two oldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump. Jr. as part of a civil probe.
Feb. 9, 2022- Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, says the former president’s financial statements “should no longer be relied upon” and cuts ties with him. Although Mazars said they have not concluded that the financial statements contain material discrepancies, the firm’s general counsel William J. Kelly said they could no longer work with him because of a conflict of interest. The Trump Organization said it was “disappointed that Mazars has chosen to part ways” in a statement, but touted the letter’s announcement it had not found material discrepancies in the statement.
Feb. 17, 2022 – A New York state judge rules that Trump has to comply with James’ subpoena.