A team of analysts working for District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., including experts from an outside forensics accounting firm, have been at the ready for months to dissect the records and scour for any evidence of criminal activity at the Trump Organization or by its executive employees. That group includes Trump, three of his adult children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer.
Investigators are examining whether the values of certain properties in the Trump Organization’s portfolio were manipulated to gain tax advantages or favorable loans and insurance rates under false pretenses. They have asked specifically about the company’s methods of valuing its Manhattan assets for purposes of seeking loans, said two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their knowledge of the investigation.
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests to comment.
There appears to be some overlap between Vance’s probe and a separate but similar civil inquiry by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James, a Democrat like Vance, is investigating Trump’s financial practices as well, telling the New York Times recently that her team is focused on whether Trump and his company “inflated their taxes for the purposes of gaining benefits” from insurance and mortgage companies “then deflated their very same assets for the purposes of evading tax liability in New York state.”
She has expressed interest in Trump’s property at 40 Wall Street, an office building in New York’s financial district, among other properties, according to public disclosures that were part of a recent lawsuit. Vance is said to be interested in multiple properties as well, including the namesake Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.
The New York City Tax Commission, which hears appeals from owners who feel the city has overvalued their property, also has received a subpoena from Vance’s office, according to city spokeswoman Laura Feyer. That subpoena was first reported by Reuters.
In some cases, owners will contest their property’s valuation by providing data about the rental income it generates. Such moves are intended to demonstrate that the income is less than what the city believes. Feyer declined to say which Trump properties are identified in the subpoena.
Tax commission records show that, in recent years, Trump’s company has applied to reduce its tax valuations at Trump Tower, the Trump Palace and Trump World Tower condominium buildings.
Before he was elected president, Trump worked with Ladder Capital Finance to refinance debts on his New York real estate. The mortgage lender provided Trump’s business with loans when almost no other would. According to city property records, the deals included a $100 million refinancing of Trump Tower, $160 million for the office building at 40 Wall Street and $15 million for the Trump Plaza condo building. Unlike Deutsche Bank, Trump’s primary lender, Ladder quickly sold the loans on securities markets.
It’s unclear precisely why Vance is interested in the buildings. Jack Weisselberg, whose father is the Trump Organization’s longtime finance chief, is an executive at Ladder Capital. Multiple banking experts, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preserve industry relationships, said they did not believe Jack Weisselberg had the authority to issue loans without approval from people more senior to him.
Attempts to reach Jack Weisselberg were unsuccessful, and Ladder’s chief executive, Brian Harris, did not return a request for comment.
Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, with whom he had a bitter falling out amid the federal investigation surrounding Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been interviewed by Vance’s team five times — and another round of questioning is set for Friday, a person familiar with the matter said. Cohen, whose split with Trump coincided with Cohen’s 2018 conviction for tax evasion and campaign-finance violations, is likley guiding prosecutors through the Trump Organization’s inner workings.
Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor recruited by Vance to assist with the investigation, conducted much of the questioning during Cohen’s most recent interview, the person familiar with the matter said.
Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis declined to comment.
Trump has rigorously — and at times angrily — denied any wrongdoing, labeling the district attorney’s investigation a “fishing expedition” and part of a political conspiracy orchestrated by Democrats. Nevertheless, he faces unprecedented legal jeopardy for a former president.
Vance’s investigation is one of two known criminal probes focused on him. The other was opened earlier this month in Atlanta, where the Fulton County district attorney is investigating Trump’s controversial conversations with Georgia state officials amid his failed bid to subvert the election results there.
The former president also faces defamation lawsuits brought by two women who have accused him of sexual assault. His niece Mary L. Trump is suing him and his siblings over an inheritance dispute. He’s being sued by the former tenants of apartments his family once owned, and by people who say they suffered financially after joining a multilevel marketing organization touted by Trump and his children.
The former president or his representatives have denied wrongdoing in each of these matters.
In Washington, the D.C. attorney general, Karl A. Racine, filed a lawsuit last year alleging that Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misused donor money to benefit the Trump Organization. Trump Jr. was interviewed by attorneys working with Racine (D) earlier this month.
Among the allegations in Racine’s suit is that Trump Jr.’s assistant, a Trump Organization staffer, reserved a block of rooms in the company’s name at a D.C. hotel during his father’s inauguration. The bill for the rooms was $49,000, Racine says, but the Trump Organization didn’t pay it. Instead, Racine has alleged, the charges went to a collection agency, and then Trump’s inaugural committee paid the bill rather than the Trump Organization.
Because the inaugural committee is a nonprofit entity, Racine has alleged the Trump Organization used a charity’s money for private gain. The attorney general is seeking to make the Trump Organization pay back more than $1 million, with the proceeds going to charity.
Trump Jr. told Racine’s investigators that he didn’t authorize the charges, according to a court filing from Racine’s office on Wednesday. His sister Ivanka also was deposed in the case, which the Trump family has attacked as politically motivated.
Fahrenthold, O’Connell and Hamburger reported from Washington.