Former President Donald Trump is scrambling to ward off New York Attorney General Letitia James' criminal probe into the Trump Organization.
Last month, James laid out a pattern of possible fraud in a court filing, accusing the Trump Organization of misrepresenting the value of multiple Trump properties to insurers, the Internal Revenue Service, and lenders. The scheme is reminiscent of what Trump lawyer-turned-critic Michael Cohen laid out in explosive testimony before the House Oversight Committee in 2019, saying that Trump "inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”
The growing evidence that the Trump Organization misled multiple entities about its property values led its accounting firm, Mazars USA, to drop Trump and the organization as a client, deciding that the past decade of the organization's financial records was no longer reliable.
In the effort to evade subpoenas brought by James, Trump's lawyers argued that the Attorney General's investigation was now moot due to Mazars dropping Trump.
New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron wasn't buying it, and ruled that both Trump and his two adult children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., must sit for depositions in compliance with the subpoenas.
"The idea that an accounting firm's announcement that no one should rely on a decade's worth of financial statements it issued based on the numbers submitted by an entity somehow exonerates that entity and renders an investigation into its past practices as moot is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll ('When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said ... it means just what I chose it to mean -- neither more nor less'); George Orwell ('War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength'): and 'alternative facts.'"
Those last two words, "alternative facts," are a stinging invocation of a viral 2017 remark by Trump's presidential counselor, Kellyanne Conway, who was defending White House press secretary Sean Spicer's lie that Trump had the biggest crowd for the inauguration of any President.
"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that."
The term "alternative facts" would be a defining quote of the Trump Administration as the former President told more than 30 thousand lies over the course of four years, with all four of his press secretaries, as well as Conway, defending him every step of the way.
People applauded the shade of Engoron's "alternative facts" invocation.
And they're eager for Trump to sit for a deposition with the Attorney General.
Others expect it to be anticlimactic, with Trump and his ilk pleading the fifth to avoid incriminating themselves.
It remains to be seen if Trump can go an entire deposition without perjuring himself.