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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, on Aug. 20, 2020.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

New York’s Democratic attorney general asked a court Monday to enforce subpoenas issued as part of her investigation into whether President Donald Trump or his businesses lied about the value of a sprawling suburban estate and other assets in order to get loans or tax benefits.

Attorney General Letitia James said that her civil investigation of potential fraud in Trump’s business dealings, which began last year, has been held up by a lack of co-operation from the president and his family. The petition seeking the court’s intervention was filed after lawyers for one of the president’s sons, Eric Trump, abruptly cancelled his planned interview with investigators late last month. James is seeking to compel Eric Trump’s testimony.

“For months, the Trump Organization has made baseless claims in an effort to shield evidence from a lawful investigation into its financial dealings,” James said in a statement. “They have stalled, withheld documents, and instructed witnesses, including Eric Trump, to refuse to answer questions under oath. That’s why we’ve filed a motion to compel the Trump Organization to comply with our office’s lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony. These questions will be answered and the truth will be uncovered, because no one is above the law.”

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The court petition was made on the first day of the Republican National Convention, just as the party was nominating Trump for re-election, and the president’s company immediately dismissed it as a political stunt.

The filing in state trial court in New York City names the Trump Organization, an umbrella group for the Republican president’s holdings, along with other business entities, Eric Trump and Seven Springs, a 212-acre (0.9-square-kilometre) New York estate owned by the Trump family. The AG’s investigation centres on whether the Trump Organization and the president improperly inflated the value of assets to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

One “significant” focus of the investigation is whether the Trump Organization and its agents improperly inflated the value of the Seven Springs estate north of the city in Westchester County. Valuations of Seven Springs were used to claim an apparent $21.1 million tax deduction for donating a conservation easement and in submissions to financial institutions calculating Trump’s net worth, according to court filings.

Investigators have not yet determined whether the law was broken, which was noted by the Trump Organization in a scathing public response Monday.

“While we have tried to co-operate in good faith with the investigation at every turn, the NYAG’s continued harassment of the company as we approach the election (and filing of this motion on the first day of the Republican National Convention) once again confirms that this investigation is all about politics,” according to an e-mailed statement from the organization. “We will respond to this motion as appropriate.”

The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization.

The president last year accused New York’s governor and attorney general of “harassing all of my New York businesses in search of anything at all they can find to make me look as bad as possible.”

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The investigation was launched in March 2019 after Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump had inflated the value of his assets to obtain more favourable terms for loans and insurance coverage.

Since then, the attorney general’s office has issued “a number of subpoenas and has taken testimony seeking information material to these matters,” the court filing said.

James’ office issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization and to Seven Springs LLC in December 2019, seeking financial documents, the filing said. Since then, both have “engaged in extensive good-faith discussions concerning the Trump Organization’s compliance with the subpoenas.” But the two sides are now at an impasse, according to the court filings, which were partially sealed.

The attorney general’s office is also attempting to collect information about several other Trump-related properties, including the Trump National Golf Club near Los Angeles, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and an office building on Wall Street in Manhattan where the Trump Organization “owns a ‘ground lease’ pertaining to the property.”

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