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Sunday, Jan 24, 2021

Manhattan DA interviewed employees at Trump's bank and insurer in criminal probe

Manhattan DA interviewed employees at Trump's bank and insurer in criminal probe

Investigators with the Manhattan district attorney's office have interviewed several employees at President Donald Trump's lender and insurer in recent weeks as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the Trump Organization, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation.
Two employees of Deutsche Bank, which has loaned more than $300 million to the Trump Organization, were interviewed by prosecutors, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The interviews took place after the November presidential election, the people said, and focused on general questions about how bankers assess loans and underwriting criteria.

The questioning was not specific to the bank's dealing with the Trump Organization or the President, the people said, with one person adding that it was the beginning of the process. Additional interviews are expected in the near future, they said.

Prosecutors also interviewed at least one employee at Aon, an insurance broker who has done work with the President's company, according to one source familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for Aon confirmed the company received a subpoena and said it is cooperating with the investigation. The spokeswoman declined to comment on any employee interviews. Representatives for Deutsche Bank and the district attorney's office, led by Cyrus Vance, also declined to comment.

Deutsche Bank was subpoenaed as part of the investigation last year and has said it cooperates with authorized investigations.

The New York Times first reported on the interviews with Deutsche Bank and Aon employees.

The interviews with Trump counterparties comes as prosecutors wait for a decision by the US Supreme Court over a grand jury subpoena for the President's tax returns. The President has lost several legal challenges in an attempt to block the subpoena to Mazars USA, his long-time accounting firm, for eight years of his personal and business records and tax returns.

Last month, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump's latest effort to block the subpoena paving the way for it to be enforced. The President's lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to stay, or halt, the ruling and a decision is expected any day.

The Mazars records are critical to the investigation, prosecutors have said. The Manhattan district attorney investigation is the only criminal inquiry facing Trump, his business and his family and will continue after he leaves office. Trump has had discussions about issuing pardons to his family members and possibly himself, CNN has reported, but those pardons would not insulate him from a state criminal indictment.

In court filings the district attorney's office has suggested the inquiry could involve tax fraud, insurance fraud and schemes to defraud its lenders. They also recently subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records relating to fees it has paid to consultants, including a payment made to a company controlled by the President's daughter, Ivanka Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing and said applicable taxes were paid.

Last year prosecutors with the district attorney's office interviewed Michael Cohen, the President's former personal attorney, at least three times about his knowledge of the Trump Organization's business dealings.

Cohen testified before Congress in February 2019 that the Trump Organization allegedly manipulated its financial statements to suit its desired outcomes. Cohen said Trump "deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes." And he alleged company officials would play with the financial numbers when dealing with insurance companies and Deutsche Bank.

Specifically, Cohen alleged the President inflated the value of his assets at times, including in 2014 when Trump submitted documents to Deutsche Bank as part of an attempt to bid for the Buffalo Bills football team. Trump never did the loan.

Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes, including campaign finance charges for facilitating hush-money payments to silence two woman's allegations of affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs. Cohen is serving a three year prison sentence and was released to home confinement earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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