Is Donald Trump a creative man
Trick, deceive, camouflage: If there is one discipline in which the businessman Donald Trump has achieved real top performances, it is his creative handling of the company balance sheet, the tax office and the lending banks. At least that's what Letitia James, the attorney general of the US state of New York, suspects, who has now massively increased the legal pressure on the ex-president: As her authority announced, James is no longer only investigating civil law, but now also criminally the prominent suspect and his real estate company, the Trump Organization.
Whether the prosecutors have encountered new possible offenses in their previous investigations, what they could be and what the consequences for Trump could be, remained open on Wednesday. The only thing that is clear is that it will be even more uncomfortable for the head of state who was voted out in November: with the initiation of criminal investigations, James gives himself the opportunity to force Trump to hand over practically all documents and information that appear interesting to him. There are some restrictions in a civil investigation.
In addition, if Trump is convicted, he is now threatened with tougher sanctions, ranging from the compulsory dissolution of the company to imprisonment for the owner. However, the latitude that the New York attorney general's office has in criminal investigations is limited: it is limited to offenses such as securities and social security fraud or labor law violations.
Criminal investigations by two authorities
Trump, who always describes all investigations against him as a politically motivated "witch hunt", is now dealing with criminal investigations by two authorities, because the chief prosecutor of the New York borough of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, is on his heels. He is responsible because the ex-president's real estate company is based in Trump Tower at the southern end of Central Park. Vance was investigating, among other things, alleged hush money payments that Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen said he had given two women. Both had stated that they had an affair with Trump, which weighed on the election campaign of the then Republican presidential candidate in 2016. Trump denies the allegations to this day.
In addition, the investigations of the two public prosecutors are concerned with the suspicion that the Trump company is said to have incorrectly stated the values of its own hotels, office buildings and golf clubs for years - and that in two ways: Apparently, Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric were bloated the value of individual properties in order to get more loans from the few remaining house banks in the group. Conversely, they set the values against the tax office far too low to save taxes. Ex-attorney Cohen had described this alleged double strategy in 2019 before a committee of the US Congress.
James' investigation relates, among other things, to Trump's "Seven Springs" estate in the Westchester district north of New York City, a castle-like complex whose value the company had last estimated at $ 200 million. Real estate experts, on the other hand, consider a market price of around 50 million to be more realistic. The Manhattan district attorney has also had tax documents from the former US president in his investigation since February, against which Trump had long legally opposed the issue.
How far the law enforcement authorities are ready to go was already indicated last week. Vance asked New York's Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School to release information because there was apparently a suspicion that the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg had misleadingly declared payments to the private elite school in company records. Among other things, Weisselberg's grandchildren are taught at the school. Some experts see Vance's decision as a move to put Weisselberg under pressure. The idea: The top manager concludes a deal with the public prosecutor that is useful to him - and testifies against the actual main person in this case: Donald Trump.
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