More Trump Records Sought in New York Asset-Valuation Probe
(Bloomberg) -- New York authorities investigating whether President Donald Trump’s company inflated the value of its assets for loans and tax breaks are seeking more records of the company’s communication with an engineer who helped appraise its property.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday asked a state-court judge in Manhattan to reconsider October rulings that allow the Trump Organization and its former land-use lawyer to withhold dozens of communications with the engineer on the grounds that they’re covered by attorney-client privilege. She said the Trump Organization “selectively disclosed hundreds of communications” between the engineer and the company.
The state is seeking a broader interpretation of subpoenas that Trump’s company already was ordered to comply with as part of the investigation. The company has said the probe is politically motivated and denies wrongdoing. The case has emerged as one of the biggest potential threats to Trump after he leaves office in January following his failed bid for reelection.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron scheduled a hearing on the matter for Dec. 15.
The engineer, Ralph Mastromonaco, performed work that was used in the appraisal of Seven Springs, a property on 212 acres in Westchester County, outside New York City, James said in the filing. The attorney general is examining whether Trump’s Manhattan-based company gave an accurate valuation for the property when it was used to claim about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.
“The Trump Organization submitted the Seven Springs appraisal to the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of substantiating a multi-million dollar tax deduction, and there is no dispute that Mr. Mastromonaco’s communications were a necessary component of the underlying work that supported that appraisal,” James said in the Thursday filing.
On Friday, Mastromonaco said he was interviewed by the attorney general’s office several months ago and that he hadn’t been aware of the appraisal until then. The engineer said his work was limited to the attempted subdivision of Seven Springs, which took place earlier.
“I had nothing to do with the appraisal -- zero,” Mastromonaco said. “I think the appraisal took place long after I had left the project.”
Lawrence Rosen, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. The attorney general’s office declined to comment.
James sued to compel the testimony in August, after the company balked at complying with the subpoenas. She sought testimony and documents from the president’s son, Eric Trump, as well as an outside attorney. A judge in September ruled largely in New York’s favor, though narrow disputes over attorney-client privilege persisted. On Oct. 30, the judge ordered a former land-use lawyer for Trump’s company to hand over hundreds of documents after finding the lawyer had gone too far in asserting attorney-client privilege over his communications with the company.
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