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Donald Trump to testify next month in New York: why is he being investigated?

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Former President Donald Trump will testify before a New York court on 15 July as part of an ongoing investigation into his companies’ business practices. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating claims that the Trump Organization deliberately valued his properties incorrectly to garner tax deductions and favourable loans.

Trump, his daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr will all testify under oath in what could be a seismic moment in American politics. The former President has consistently protested his innocence and claimed that the investigation is part of a “witch hunt” against him.

Why is Trump being called to testify in New York?

Full details of the three-year investigation have not yet been made public but James’ office have gathered “significant evidence” against Trump. The Attorney General has previously indicated that the investigation has focused on the Trump Organization’s financial statements, going back more than a decade.

A statement from James’ office said that the company “relied on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits – including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions – on terms more favorable than the true facts warranted”.

One particularly glaring example relates to a group of rent-stabilised apartment units that the Trump Organization had valued at $49.5 million. An outside appraiser had valued the very same units at just $750,000.

Aside from the partially subjective valuations, there is also evidence from financial filings that the Trump Organization falsified the specifics of certain properties. The investigation found that between 2012 and 2016 Trump’s own triplex apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan was said to have “exceeded 30,000 square feet and valued the apartment at up to $327 million based on those dimensions.”

However in 2017 the same apartment, according to the company’s own statement, was less than 11,000 square feet. The apartment’s valuation had been slashed by two-thirds in Trump’s firs year as the President of the United States.

According to the New York court filing, Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg “admitted that the apartment’s value had been overstated by ‘give or take’ $200 million.”

Trump loses late attempt to avoid testimony

Earlier this week the New York court of appeals rejected an attempt from Trump’s legal team to allow the former President to avoid testifying. The court of appeals ruled that there was no “substantial constitutional question” that would require its involvement.

That appeal was just the latest attempt made by Trump to avoid appearing before a court, although it was not the most expensive. Last month Trump was forced to pay $110,000 in fines after being found in contempt of court.

He had failed to respond to a civil subpoena requiring his attendance to testify. He was fined $10,000 per day for the offense.