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New York's attorney general is seeking to question Donald Trump under oath

Sean Rayford
Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Sept. 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, is seeking to question former President Donald Trump under oath in early January, a source with knowledge of the investigation tells NPR. The request is a significant milestone in a long-running fraud investigation into the Trump family's business practices.

Since 2019, the attorney general's office has been looking into whether Trump's companies routinely lied about the value of their properties, depending on whether they were seeking to lower their taxes or receive loans.

The attorney general's office declined to comment. Trump's attorney, Ron Fischetti, did not respond to requests for comment, but told The New York Times and Washington Post that the former president planned to fight the effort in court. Trump and his company have denied wrongdoing, calling the investigation a "witch hunt."

The extent of the investigation first burst into view in the fall of 2020, when James's office went to court to compel the testimony of Eric Trump, an executive at the Trump organization, after he initially refused to show up for his deposition. The former president's son ultimately testified, after a judge ordered him to do so.

Investigators went back to the judge last summer, when the Trump Organization once again had to be compelled to comply with investigators over a request to produce internal documents about appraisals, valuations and purchase records.

David Dee Delgado / Getty Images
Getty Images
New York Attorney General Letitia James, seen above on Aug. 3, is seeking to question former President Donald Trump as part of a long-running fraud investigation into the Trump family's business practices.

Now, prosecutors are looking to speak to the man at the top of the company, typically the last step in any legal investigation.

Shortly after The Washington Post first reported the news on Thursday, James tweeted that she was ending her campaign for New York governor in 2022.

Her investigation is distinct from a separate criminal action which earlier this summer yielded indictments against two Trump business entities and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, for an alleged 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by lying about compensation. Weisselberg and the Trump entities pleaded not guilty.

James' office has partnered with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on the criminal case, where a new grand jury was recently empanelled and is examining whether new charges should be filed.

Donald Trump has been questioned under oath in a legal action one other time since he left the White House, in a case over whether his security guards wrongly assaulted protesters outside Trump Tower in the summer of 2015. Trump has denied wrongdoing. The case is set for trial in May.

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Andrea Bernstein