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NY seeks Trump Insider records, in apparent attempt to secure cooperation

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Manhattan state prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization have subpoenaed the personal bank statements of the company’s chief financial officer and question the gifts he and his family received from Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, prosecutors have focused on executive Allen H. Weisselberg in what appears to be a determined effort to secure his cooperation. Mr. Weisselberg, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, has overseen the finances of the Trump organization for decades and may hold the key to any possible New York criminal case against the former president and his family business .

Prosecutors working for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. are examining, among other things, whether Mr. Trump and the company falsely manipulated property values ​​to obtain loans and tax benefits.

It is unclear whether Mr. Weisselberg would cooperate with the investigation and neither his lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, nor Mr. Vance’s office will comment. But if a review of his personal finances should reveal possible wrongdoing, prosecutors could then use that information to urge Mr. Weisselberg to guide them in the internal workings of the company. The 73-year-old accountant started his career working for Mr. Trump’s father.

Separately, prosecutors are also looking for a new set of internal Trump Organization documents, including general ledgers for several of its more than two dozen properties that the company did not divest last year, people say. aware of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details.

Ledgers provide a line-by-line breakdown of each property’s financial situation, including daily receipts, checks, and income. Prosecutors could compare those details with information the company has provided to its lenders and local tax authorities to determine if it has fraudulently misled them.

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Mr. Vance’s office also subpoenaed files from several banks where Mr. Trump or his company held accounts, including JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, according to people with knowledge of the bank subpoenas.

The previously unreported developments highlight the escalation of the investigation after Mr. Vance’s office obtained Mr. Trump’s tax records and other underlying financial documents in February. They were released over Mr. Trump’s objections after a lengthy legal battle that resulted in a ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

The Trump Organization declined to comment. In the past, Mr. Trump, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and called the investigation a long, politically motivated “fishing expedition”. Mr Vance, a Democrat, recently announced that he did not want to be re-elected.

The investigation focused on some of Mr. Trump’s most significant properties: Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the Trump Hotels in New York and Chicago, and the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County. In addition to possible tax and banking fraud, prosecutors are reviewing the Trump Organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed the files of a company hired by Deutsche Bank, one of the former president’s main lenders, to assess the value of three Trump hotels with loans from Deutsche Bank, people said. aware of the file. The company has reviewed the operations of restaurants, bars and hotel gift shops, one of the people said.

Last year, prosecutors subpoenaed Deutsche Bank itself and Mr. Trump’s other main lender, Ladder Capital, who sold his loans from the Trump organization years ago. The two banks are cooperating with prosecutors.

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It is not known whether prosecutors will ultimately lay charges. But if a case were built against the Trump organization on the basis of the loan documents, the company’s lawyers could argue that Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital are sophisticated financial institutions that have conducted their own analysis of Mr. Trump’s properties. without relying on internal company evaluations. Lawyers might also point out that providing different appraisals for a property depending on the situation – for example, on a loan application or by calling local property taxes – is common and appropriate in the New York real estate industry, in part because that there are different methods to calculate property values.

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Your questions about Donald Trump’s taxes answered

If the district attorney indicted Mr. Trump – far from a sure thing – the result would be the potential criminal trial of a former president. For his part, Mr. Trump dismissed the investigation as a politically motivated “fishing expedition” and vowed to “continue”.

External accountants also verify the information provided to local tax authorities, potentially reducing the risk of fraud. Mr. Trump has argued that his tax returns “were prepared by one of the largest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the United States.”

In addition to the fraud investigation, Mr. Vance’s office continues to focus on its original goal: the role of the Trump organization in paying silent money during the 2016 presidential campaign to two women who have said he had relations with Mr. Trump.

Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael D. Cohen paid $ 130,000 to buy the silence from one of the women, Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress who played the role of Stormy Daniels. The Trump organization then reimbursed Mr. Cohen, and Mr. Vance’s office verified whether the company correctly accounted for the $ 130,000 payment.

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Mr Cohen, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to federal campaign financing charges for his role in the silence scheme, has long implicated Mr Weisselberg, saying he helped design a strategy to hide refunds. Federal prosecutors who indicted Mr. Cohen did not charge Mr. Weisselberg with wrongdoing.

Mr. Cohen is now cooperating with Mr. Vance’s investigation and has met with prosecutors several times, including to review some of Mr. Trump’s financial documents. Lanny Davis, an attorney for Mr. Cohen, declined to comment.

Prosecutors also questioned Mr Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, she said. Ms Weisselberg has been embroiled in a bitter divorce from Mr Weisselberg’s son Barry, who runs the Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Ms Weisselberg said in an interview that prosecutors asked her about a number of gifts Mr Trump and his company had given to the Weisselberg family over the years. These include an apartment in Central Park South for Ms Weisselberg and her former husband, rented cars for several family members, and lessons at a private school.

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The scrutiny of the gifts appears to be part of an effort to paint a picture of Mr Weisselberg’s financial life, as is common when prosecutors seek the cooperation of a potential witness. It is not known if prosecutors suspect any wrongdoing related to the gifts.

James B. Stewart and Steve eder contribution to reports. Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.

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