Trump’s Family Business Is Under Yet Another Criminal Investigation – Vanity Fair

  • by

When we last checked in on Donald Trump’s legal situation, the former president of the United States was facing numerous lawsuits—two of which judges had ordered him to be deposed under oath for—and was a subject of three different criminal investigations being conducted in GeorgiaD.C., and New York. As that check-in was less than a week ago, one might have assumed that nothing had changed in the succeeding six days, or that if it had, that it was some incremental movement on one of the cases we were already aware of and not, like, an entirely new criminal investigation. But, surprise! It turns out when you’re one of the most corrupt individuals to walk the face of the Earth, fresh criminal probes pop up on the regular.

The New York Times reports that the Trump Organization, already under indictment by the office of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., is now facing a separate criminal investigation being conducted by the district attorney’s office in Westchester County, New York, which has subpoenaed records from the Trump National Golf Club located there and from the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes for the course. While the full breadth of the investigation is not clear at this time, the Times reports that it appears that district attorney Mimi Rocah is focused in part on whether Trump’s family business misled local officials about the property’s value with the express purpose of lowering its tax bill.

Per the Times:

The value of the property determines the amount of taxes the club must pay to local authorities: The higher the value, the bigger the tax bill. But after the town of Ossining estimates the value, the club can challenge the assessment—and that is what it has done. Every year since 2015, the Trump club has appealed its tax bill in court, prompting an outcry in the Ossining area, where hundreds of demonstrators marched in 2017, chanting, “Pay your share.”

In seeking to cut the tax bill—sometimes by as much as 90%—the club has argued that the property was worth much less than Ossining officials had determined, a common strategy among many country clubs, not just Mr. Trump’s. In one year, the Trump club put the property’s value at about $1.4 million, while the town assessed it at roughly $15 million. Ms. Rocah’s prosecutors could be comparing the figures the club submitted to Ossining with other statements Mr. Trump has made about the property’s value. For example, he declared in federal disclosure forms when he was president that the club was worth more than $50 million.

Rocah has not accused anyone at the company of any wrongdoing, according to the Times, and in a statement, the Trump Organization insisted that any suggestion it acted inappropriately was “completely false and incredibly irresponsible.”

Of course, for those of you keeping up at home, the notion that a company run by Donald Trump would claim the value of a property was less than one tenth of what local officials said it was actually worth should come as…no surprise whatsoever. In February 2019, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen told Congress that in his experience, Trump “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” In July, the Manhattan D.A. charged the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, with numerous crimes, including multiple counts of tax fraud and falsifying records, alleging that the company failed to pay taxes on fringe benefits like apartments, cars, and private school tuition. (Both Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty.) Meanwhile, New York attorney general Letitia James is reportedly investigating Seven Springs, a Trump-owned property located in Westchester County, and the question of whether or not the company “gave an accurate valuation for the property when it served as the basis for about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.”