Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio has said that he doesn’t believe the former president will be able to “wriggle out” of the current allegations of financial mismanagement hanging over him.
The Attorney General of New York, Democrat Letitia James, has said that the department has identified numerous misleading statements and omissions in financial statements used to get loans and to submit taxes.
Ms James is now trying to figure out who in the Trump family is responsible.
“I think there is no chance that Donald Trump didn’t know absolutely everything that was going on,” Mr D’Antonio told CNN.
“If you add up what these discrepancies reach as a total, it’s half a billion dollars or more, and that’s just in the examples that the attorney general noted,” he added.
Mr D’Antonio said that Mr Trump is also “responsible for training his children to play the same games, so if he didn’t know precisely what they were doing, he knew how they were operating”.
“The key example of this, historically, was the Trump SoHo case, where early in the sales, Ivanka Trump went out and said that 60 per cent of the units were already committed to buyers,” Mr D’Antonio said. “In fact, it was only 15 per cent to 20 per cent. She knew she was lying, she had to know she was lying. There was an investigation then, and the rules were different in terms of the informal rules of operation in New York at the time, and Trump wriggled out of that case. I don’t think he can wriggle out of this one.”
Mr Trump first showed off the building in 2006 on his TV show The Apprentice. The criminal investigation into whether members of the Trump family deceived prospective buyers in the condo scheme was dropped in 2011.
Public disclosure of emails shows how Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump were aware that the figures they used to tell possible buyers how well the units in the building were selling were in fact inaccurate.
In the book American Oligarchs: The Kushners, The Trumps And The Marriage Of Money And Power, reporter Andrea Bernstein writes that the Trumps’ emails “showed a coordinated, deliberate and knowing effort to deceive buyers. In one email, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. Because the sales levels had been overstated at the beginning of the sales process, any statement showing a lower level could reveal the untruths”.
A civil case was settled in November 2011, with the Trumps agreeing to refund almost $3m of deposits but not admitting any wrongdoing. Buyers agreed to stop helping the Manhattan district attorney as part of the settlement.
The buyers detailed the agreement in a letter with language pushed by Trump lawyers stating that no crime had been committed, prompting the prosecutors to drop the criminal case against Mr Trump Jr and Ms Trump as they believed the letter undermined the case.
According to court documents filed by Ms James, Ms Trump is also facing questions concerning misleading statements sent to Deutsche Bank.
“Until January 2017, Ms Trump was a primary contact for the Trump Organization’s largest lender, Deutsche Bank. In connection with this work, Ms Trump caused misleading financial statements to be submitted to Deutsche Bank and the federal government,” the state attorney general wrote in the filing.
Mr D’Antonio said he believes Mr Trump will claim his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination.
“This is a person who did it 97 times during his first divorce,” Mr D’Antonio said. “So, he’s familiar with the Fifth Amendment even though he denigrates others who use it. So, I would expect it to be a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience for the people taking the deposition, and he’ll give very little ground.”
As Ms James was looking into the Trump Organization in October 2020, Eric Trump used his fifth amendment rights more than 500 times over the course of six hours.
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