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NY Attorney General Sues Trump For Fraud; Trump Atty: Lawsuit Focused On AG's Political Agenda, Not Facts Or Law; NY A.G. Seeks To Ban Trump Family "From Running NY Business For Good"; NY Attorney General Sues Trump And Three Adult Children; NY A.G. Alleges Trump Lied 200+ Times About The Value Of His Assets. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired September 21, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Everyday people cannot lie to a bank about how much money they have in order to get a favorable loan to buy a home, or to send their kid to college. And if they did the government would throw the book at them, why should this be any different? It is a tale of two justice systems, one for everyday working people, and one for the elite, the rich and the powerful.
Mr. Trump and his allies may say that these penalties are too harsh, or that this is part of a witch hunt. I will remind everyone that this investigation only started after Michael Cohen, the former lawyer, his former lawyer testified before Congress and shed light on this misconduct. And the remedies are consistent with what we have sought for other businesses that committed the same misconduct. With what we have sought for other businesses that committed the same misconduct.
This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth to achieve to deceive banks. And the people of the great state of New York, claiming you have money that you do not have, does not amount to the art of the deal. It's the art of the steal. And there cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state. On that promise and our commitment because no one, no one is above the law.
And I would like for them to stand this investigation was led by Senior Enforcement Counsel, Kevin Wallace, Senior Counsel Andrew Amer, Assistant Attorney General Colleen Faherty, Assistant Attorney General Alex Finkelstein, Assistant Attorney General Wil Handley, Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Torre, Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson, Special Counsel to the Solicitor General Eric Haren, Enforcement Section Chief Louis Solomon, Legal Support Analyst Samantha Stern.
Additional support was provided by Data Analyst Anushua Choudhury, Senior Data Analyst Akram Hasanov, Data Scientist Chansoo Song, Deputy Director of Research and Analytics Megan Thorsfeldt, Director of Research and Analytics Jonathan Werberg; as well as Information Technology Specialist Hewson Chen, and Information Technology Specialist Paige Podolny, Information Technology Specialist John Roach. Appellate support was provided by Deputy Solicitor General Judith Vale, Assistant Solicitor General Eric Del Pozo, all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
I thank you for your service. You may have a seat.
Now I know that I've provided you with a lot of numbers, a lot of property. Members of the team will be available to answer any specific questions but at this time, I'm going to turn it over to Delaney, who's going to lead the Q&A on topic questions. Thank you. Delaney?
JONATHAN GREENSTEIN, NBC: Sorry, Jonathan Greenstein, NBC. I wanted to ask you say that there was criminality involved here. I was wondering if you've referred this to the Manhattan D.A as well, even part of that investigation? And should we expect to see state charges out of the Manhattan D.A office?
JAMES: As you know that there was a parallel criminal investigation being conducted by the district attorney of Manhattan and we are cooperating with Manhattan district attorney and any information that he is requesting, we will submit it to his office. We cooperate with any law enforcement agency, including but not limited to the Manhattan D.A. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that his career and his empire was basically a sham and smoke and mirrors. Can you just describe? Are you trying to shut him down? And where do we go from here?
JAMES: So again, this investigation has to do with his statements of financial condition over a period of 2011 to 2021. And this is an attempt to seek redress for the taxpayers of the great state of New York for individuals in the great state of New York. And he could reconstruct or reorganize a number of these corporations. But the relief that we are seeking from this judge is again for him to reform his practices in the state of New York and to prohibit him from engaging in any real estate commercial transaction in the state of New York going forward.
HENRY ROSOFF, PIX11, LEAD POLITICAL REPORTER: Oh, I apologize. Henry Rosoff off with PIX11. As you know these allegations are at least three years old. That's the origin of your investigation. The DOJ and IRS have had access to the same starting points that you did with these referrals. Do you hope to force their hand into action?
JAMES: It is not a question of forcing their hands. It's a question of presenting to them evidence, which we believe suggests illegality and suggest that he was engaging in a number of schemes to benefit himself, his corporation and his family. And so, we will present this information to the district attorney of New York if he requested, as well as the Southern District of New York and the IRS based on the allegations that we uncovered - based on the evidence that we uncovered.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kara Scannell at CNN. Are you willing to settle with the Trump organization? And if so, what terms would be appropriate and favorable for you that you would agree to settle? JAMES: I will not negotiate in public. And as you know, has been publicly reported we rejected settlement offers that they submitted, and our doors are always open.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Washington Post. It's been suggested by Mr. Trump and his advocates that they were engaging in standard practices. This is standard in the real estate business. How is what they were doing different standard practice here? And can you comment on that defense that's different?
JAMES: So, you know, this conduct cannot be brushed aside and dismissed as some sort of good faith mistake. The statements of financial condition were greatly exaggerated, grossly inflated, objectively false, and therefore fraudulent and illegal. And as a result of that, we are seeking relief and Mr. Trump, the Trump organization, his family, they should all be held accountable. And that is the purpose of this litigation that we are filing today. In addition to referring the criminal conduct to the Southern District of New York, as well as the IRS. No one my friend is above the law.
MARCIA KRAMER, WCBS-TV CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Marcia Kramer from CBS. Madam, Attorney General, I wonder I have two-part question. Number one, is there anything to prevent Mr. Trump from establishing his corporations even for the properties in New York in another state, since he is now become a legal resident of Florida? And secondly, you called it Donald Trump Jr. has already started tweeting that this "the Democratic witch hunt has begun." If you'd like to respond to that as well?
JAMES: So, with regards to the name calling, as you know, they've basically have attempted to delay this investigation and two judges have dismissed those claims that this was a political witch hunt. And so, I give no credence to those names that he referred - he's referred to me. And to he's, Mr. Trump, the Trump organization as well as his family will still have to deal with this complaint. They will still have to respond. They will still have to respond to the allegations they're in. And so, if in fact, he decided to move to Florida, the reality is he still has to deal with the great state of New York and respond to the complaint.
KRAMER: Establish another corporation, put these properties in a corporation that he incorporates in another state---?
JAMES: No, no, he cannot. Correct. These corporations are currently, currently incorporated in the state of New York, some are incorporated in Delaware, but they do business in the state of New York, and he cannot just pick up and those same corporations can be moved to Florida. No. And again, Marcia, just to put a finer point on that, we are attempting as part of our relief to dissolve these corporations.
LAURA ITALIANO, INSIDER INC., SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Laura Italiano from Insider. In practical terms, much of former President Trump's biggest money generating properties are in Manhattan, in New York State. If this relief is granted by the judge down the road. Would he be able to collect rents to obtain loans on the properties? What precise, you know, what practical implications to sell the properties should he watch? It is the corporation that's filed in New York necessary for him to do those things.
JAMES: So again, most of the corporations are, have been incorporated in the state of New York. There are some of that been incorporated in Delaware, but they continue to do business in the state of New York. We are again or permanently barring Mr. Trump and his family members from serving as an officer or director in any entity in the state of New York. We are barring him from entering into any commercial real estate transactions for five years.
We are barring Mr. Trump and the organization from applying for any loans for five years, just for five, requiring him to repay the financial benefits of $250 million, placing a monitor over these corporations, appointing requiring him to file a GAAP compliant financial statement of financial condition, replacing the trustees. If in fact, he creates a new trustee and permanently barring Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney and canceling his certificate of incorporation for those corporations that we discussed. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are these relief that a judge would have to approve?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, these things aren't happening at the moment. This is what will be litigated that (Inaudible)
JAMES: Correct. And it's important also to understand that Mr. Trump will continue to have a financial interest in a lot of these corporations. And so, if he decides to, at some point in time sell them or if he decides to restructure them. Again, this is all part of the relief that we are seeking. I said to Marcia, that we're seeking to dissolve them that was incorrect. We're not seeking to dissolve them. He still has a financial interest in these businesses and corporation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: However, to collect rent, to obtain a loan based on them as collateral, to sell the property, maybe I am missing some other practical things. If they approved by a judge down the road, these are things he would not be able to do with those properties?
JAMES: Correct. For the next five years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take two more questions.
JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO, SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER: Josh Gerstein with Politico. Madam Attorney General, can you explain something about how the former president you alleged he did this for at least a decade or more than a decade? How did he get away with what you're saying he got away with for such a long period of time?
A lot of these transactions are with some of the largest financial institutions and insurance companies in the state of New York. Do they just not check anything that people tell them? Or they presumed it was true, or do they have hints that these things were not true that they were being told? What does it tell you about those institutions that they would take his word for it?
JAMES: So, let me just say with respect to (Inaudible) indicated on the statement of financial condition that they did not certify, and they did not audit these statements. That does not absolve Mr. Trump of submitting accurate information. Two, with respect to Cushman & Wakefield, there is an ongoing investigation into Cushman & Wakefield. And then lastly, with respect to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank, I mean we're in conversations with Deutsche Bank. They have been cooperating with our office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this lawsuit is going to be resolved quickly or do you believe this is going to be a drawn-out process?
JAMES: So that's entirely up to the judge. I thank you all for coming. And if there's any specific questions, I believe, my members of the team will answer your questions. Thank you.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. You've been listening there to the Attorney General of the State of New York Letitia James, outlining this, nearly 300-page civil lawsuit filed against the former president of the United States, Donald Trump and his children alleging that the Trump organization is a sham, built on lies, lies to banks, lies to insurance companies, lies to the state of New York about the valuation of Trump organization properties.
She is seeking here to limit Donald Trump's ability to do business in New York, to limit his family's ability to do business in New York and she is seeking damages to she alleges the fraud committed to more than $250 million worth over a decade.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kara Scannell, who is there at that announcement. Kara, you asked a question, was the attorney general willing to settle this. She said past efforts have failed, her door is open. But walk through the highlights of this. She called it the art of the steal. And she was scathing in what she said was essentially a family run scam.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. So, Letitia James just finished the press conference here, where she outlined what she said was a 10-year fraudulent scheme. She said that the former president and his adult children Donald Trump, Jr, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, along with their chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, and others had helped inflate the valuations of their assets by billions of dollars all to enrich the former president.
She explained in this scheme that this fraud touches all aspects of the company's business, saying that there were more than 200 entities, and examples of valuations that had been inflated over time, including everything from the golf courses to apartments to properties that they owned and including some of the big skyscrapers here in Manhattan.
And now, Letitia James had said that she is referring potential allegations of bank fraud and attacks, related fraud to the IRS and to the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. We've reached out to those offices and have not heard back so far. And as you say, she is seeking $250 million an ill-gotten gain. She said, that's the benefit that Trump and his family received on loans that they received by giving banks and others these inflated valuations as well as the profits that they made on the sale of the old post office building in Washington, D.C. John?
KING: Kara Scannell, live at the scene for us. Kara, bring us any new information that comes in. Let's continue the conversation with our CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez. And Evan, the Attorney General knows and it's happening already, Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter, attacking this as a witch hunt to Trump attorney, calling it unchecked abuse of authority.
She knew it was coming. And so, she's hoping that this answers those questions that this is political, again, nearly 300 pages and it goes line by line through many different transactions. Where is this case go from here?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the first things that happens is the judge is being asked, John, to cancel the certificate of business for the Trump organization in the state of New York. It appears that that will severely limit what types of business Trump can enter into in New York state. Of course, you know, he has not only a golf course, he's got commercial buildings, he's got residential buildings. He also has a hotel business there in New York State.
A couple of things that stood out in this document that they released today. You know, for example, Mar-a-Lago, according to the New York state attorney general, they say that Trump gave it a valuation of $729 million. That's about set - that's about 10 times the actual value according to the attorney general there. Another example, the triplex in Trump Tower in New York City, again $327 million valuation, according to her, which is higher and the price for any New York City apartment that has sold in New York states, in New York City, rather.
So, what she's saying is that all of these examples add up to a great, huge scam that is stolen from the taxpayers of New York. And this is the reason why she says that this is the severe penalty, which has been brought, not only against the former president, but also his adult, several of his adult children, barring them from serving as directors of any business in New York state.
KING: And Perez, standby as well. Let's bring Maggie Haberman of The New York Times into the conversation. Maggie, you've covered Donald Trump as a private citizen, as president and now in his post presidency. And Letitia James, in that press conference, essentially said the whole thing was a scam. And the whole thing he values most, all those buildings, all those golf courses, all the entities that have the Trump name, usually in big gold letters on them.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right, John. It was a really sweeping. I don't want to use the word indictment because that's a legal term. But it was certainly a sweeping condemnation of Donald Trump's business practices over a very long period of time. And remember, he didn't just start engaging in these types of practices over the period of time she's talking about, you know, he's been in business for a long time.
And I think a key point of what she's saying here, John, is, there were tangible things that people could see, that looked real. And she's saying that he just, you know, massively inflated the value to turn them into something else, as he was either dealing with lenders or as he was dealing with banks and so forth. This is going to drag out for a while, John, this is a civil suit, she is making a criminal referral, I believe, and then it's going to be up to others to decide what they're going to do with this.
There was a question at the press conference of, you know, the IRS has had access to the same information, you know, they haven't done anything. We'll see where that goes. The civil penalty here that she's talking about imposing the dollars are massive. And what she's talking about as a potential impact of taking away their business certificates is massive as well.
KING: Right. And she's essentially saying she wants to restrict hamstring, his ability, the family's ability to do anything with those properties, especially those in New York state until this is resolved, which is a giant, essentially a straitjacket around the Trump organization.
HABERMAN: Now, that's exactly right. I mean, they are essentially stuck now. This prohibits, you know, he has moved to Florida. His children have moved to Florida. You know, he has moved a bunch of his operations down there. The Trump organization is still located at Trump Tower. This really precludes him from anything where she's hoping to precludes him from anything else he might try to do and just keeps him still and in place. It keeps him from, you know, doing additional deals.
And John, realistically, I don't know how many additional deals were available to Donald Trump in New York, where he's a fairly unpopular figure in a lot of places. And he had always struggled in terms of, you know, banks' lending to him and so forth. But I do think this makes it harder for him to move, you know, outside of New York. It really, really does put him in place.
KING: You know him better than most. You just wrote a great book about him how does Donald Trump take this news? There's many different investigations of Donald Trump but he calls them all witch hunts. This one, goes again for nearly 300 pages through his cherished Trump organization and says he's a liar. He's a cheat, and worse, how does he take this?
HABERMAN: Not happily, John. I mean, any you know, Donald Trump has spent, you know, decades trying to build up this image as a successful businessman and has tried to prevent any effort to suggest otherwise. Tim O'Brien of Bloomberg, you know, wrote a book in which he talked about this. And Donald Trump sued him and lost over his claims. So, you know, this is something that he has tried to bat away for some time. There are many investigations into him. On the one hand, I heard some relief from some people around Trump that there's no criminal charge involved right here. You know, related to this, although it's not clear to me how much jurisdiction that James actually would have over that. But they recognize that this goes to Trump's self-image and Trump's projected image. And this one's going to staying in ways that investigations related to his presidency, frankly John, just don't bother him as much.
KING: That's an excellent point. Maggie Haberman, we appreciate the valuable insights. Let's bring the conversation in the room here in Washington. Talked about this with our reporters, and our legal analyst. CNN's Dana Bash is here, CNN's Jeremy Diamond as well, Tia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the former federal prosecutor Shan Wu.
Counselor, let me start with you. This is a civil case, right. But the attorney general at the same time says she is going to essentially make criminal referrals or send information on to the Southern District of New York and to the internal revenue service. She is alleging not in this suit, because it's a civil suit. But she's saying she also has the evidence of crimes.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. And so, the evidence that she's amassed for this suit, which was very hard fought to get it after a lot of litigation, would provide the basis for those criminal actions, tax fraud, obviously, there's tax fraud going on here. And given the massive inflation of these values and same thing for the southern district.
So, she's giving them a very valuable head start on all this evidence that they've taken so long to gather. And that's what really strikes me about this complaint is how well documented it is. I mean, there are facts here that you can spin your way out of claiming that the penthouse for example, is three times the square footage that it is, there's no way you can spin your way out of that.
KING: A square footage is something you can measure. He said it was 33,000 square feet. She says it was 11,000 square feet. Before I bring the others just of the idea of how this proceed. You know, Donald Trump can delay, can delay, can delay in terms of a civil suit like this, does it matter? In a criminal trial, you have every right, every American citizen, whether you're rich or poor, has the right to invoke your fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. She made the point of knowing that Donald Trump repeatedly took the fifth and his deposition as part of her investigation. Is it that a different context, in a civil setting?
WU: You still have the right to invoke it on the difference in the civil setting is when you invoke it, they can be Fact Finder Judge Jury can draw an adverse inference against you. So, it's kind of interesting the timing of who invoked it when early on, people did invoke it a lot. And then I believe two of the children including Ivanka did not invoke it. But the main difference is you can draw an adverse inference and civil actions, but in criminal cases, you can't do that.
KING: And if you listen to her Dana Bash, if you listen to Attorney General Letitia James, it's the Trump family. But she was describing an organization that sounds like an organized crime family. She says that he directed all of this that he met with Mr. Weisselberg, every year to sign off and to look at and review the financial statements, but that his children, two sons and a daughter were all part of it.
DANA BASH, CNN CO-AUTHOR STATE OF THE UNION: No question about it. And you and Maggie, were just talking about that all of this goes to the heart of who he is, even more so than his political ambitions, his political history. Having said that, the way that the that Leticia James described the alleged misconduct is very much in keeping with and intended to, I think, break the spell of who his supporters believe he is.
She said that this is proof that there shouldn't be two kinds of justice. There shouldn't be two kinds of America basically those one for the elite, and one for everyday Americans, that he was trying to the words she used for scheme and conspiracy, build those things in order to get away with things like be elite do.
His whole political campaign, his whole presidency and we expect likely 2024 will be, I'm for the little guy, and they look at him as somebody who sort of plays in the elite pond, but actually is more for the worker this, the language that she used to describe this 250 page legal document was clearly intended to disrupt that, I mean unclear if he can, if she can but it was very noteworthy how she decided to explain it.
KING: And you covered Trump for a long time Jeremy. As you jump in, I just want to just go back to this as a statement from Alina Habba., one of Trump's attorneys and his son Donald Trump, Jr. is echoing the same points on Twitter. Today's filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law, rather, solely focused on advancing attorney general's political agenda. This is a familiar playbook for the Trump organization, say it's all political, it's all Democrats how to get him, not addressing the facts.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it was to be expected, right. And I think Dana's point is spot on. Because when I think back to Trump in 2016 and in 2020, as well, he would actually point out that he knew that people like him who are wealthy, played by a different set of rules. And he promised to change some of those things. Of course, during his presidency, he actually did nothing to actually try and address differences in taxes, for example, some of the loopholes that he vowed to close that he never actually acted on.
And here, it's just kind of revealing that Donald Trump not only knew about this separate set of rules, but that he also played by that separate set of rules. And that is ultimately the story of Donald Trump's rise in business and in politics is constantly playing by a different set of rules. We are seeing here 10 years of inflation and false statements of the valuations of these properties. But it is only now, only now that Trump is finally perhaps getting investigated, perhaps there is going to be a measure of justice for playing by a different set of rules.
And when you look at the number of investigations that Trump faces, all of them go to this very same idea that Donald Trump for years has thought that he was above the law, and perhaps he is finally facing some kind of---
KING: And one of the things if you read through this, there's a lot of details inside information about the business and the numbers used by the Trump organization, stuff he has tried to keep out of the public domain for quite some time. Evan Perez is still with us.
And Evan, the attorney general was mindful there. That's why this complaint is so long and so detailed of what was likely to come from the Trump family. She also has to deal with the simple fact that she has publicly as a politician, she's a prosecutor, but she's also a politician. And she has publicly criticized Donald Trump many, many times they do give him an opening to say there's politics play here?
PEREZ: Right. It really does. And I think you heard one question during the press conference, John, where someone asked the question, you know, Trump doesn't do this on his own, right? He's got accountants, he's got lenders, he's got insurance, he's got tax authorities, all of whom had oversight over this. And why is it that, you know, he was getting away with this for this long? What changed?
And the question for Letitia James and others are going to have to answer to judges perhaps, is whether there is something that has made a difference and whether the political part of this is why they're certainly cracking down on Donald Trump and treating him perhaps differently from other people in New York who might be doing the same thing, John?
KING: It is remarkable, Tia Mitchell, that we're having this conversation. Donald Trump is still the most powerful figure in the Republican Party. Donald Trump is planning to run for president again, in the next election cycle. We are 48 days away from a midterm election. New York state you cover most. Georgia is critical to that election calculation. And in that state is one of the other, that's a criminal investigation of Donald Trump for his efforts to interfere and overturn the 2020 election. It's just everywhere you look, there's legal trouble for Donald Trump.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Right. And it's interesting that we knew all along that the state investigators, state and local investigators in New York and Georgia, we're kind of like, if Trump was going to face charges, it would likely come out of one of these state or local investigations. But to the point, politically, it may not hurt him at all, it's likely not with his base because they'll believe.
Number one, they'll believe his rebuttals, and they'll believe it's been politicized. And they believe that he is kind of this person who's learned how to play in the elite pond to his own benefit, and in some ways, that's part of his appeal to a lot of his base. KING: Let's bring Kara Scannell back into the conversation. Kara was there at the announcement has been going through these documents. It's incredibly detailed care laid out in the filing here by the attorney and the attorney general says, she promises she will prove this case in court.
SCANNELL: Yes, John. I mean, she supplies more than 200 examples where she says that the valuations of various properties were inflated. I mean, you go through it, and it's just a list of almost every property that the Trump organization owns or controls. I mean, one of the examples that Evan had mentioned with Mar-a-Lago, where according to the attorney general's office, that should have been valued around $75 million.
But instead, they say that the Trump organization valued at almost 10 times that at $739 million, disregarding what she said Trump knew, because he had signed deeds that explained that there were restrictions on development.