NEW YORK: New York's attorney general has sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization for records related to consulting fees paid to Ivanka Trump as part of a broad civil investigation into the president's business dealings, a law enforcement official said on Thursday (Nov 19).
The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported that a similar subpoena was sent to President Donald Trump's company by the Manhattan district attorney, which is conducting a parallel criminal probe.
The Associated Press said it could not immediately independently confirm the district attorney's subpoena but the one sent by Attorney General Letitia James was described by an official briefed on the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The records requests followed recent reporting in The Times, based partly on two decades’ worth of Trump’s tax filings, that the president had reduced his company's income tax liability over several years by deducting US$26 million in consulting fees as a business expense.
Records strongly suggested, The Times reported, that US$747,622 of those fees were paid to Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, through a company she owned at a time when she was also a Trump Organization executive.
If true, that wouldn’t necessarily pose a problem for Ivanka Trump herself, as long as she paid income tax on the consulting payments, which she reported publicly.
It could, however, raise questions about whether the Trump Organization's related tax deductions were allowable. The Internal Revenue Service has, in the past, pursued civil penalties over large consulting fee write-offs it found were made to dodge tax liability.
The Times wrote that there was no indication Ivanka Trump is a target of either the state's or the city's investigation.
“This is harassment pure and simple,” she said on Twitter late Thursday. “This ‘inquiry’ by NYC democrats is 100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage. They know very well that there’s nothing here and that there was no tax benefit whatsoever. These politicians are simply ruthless.”
The Trump Organization’s lawyer, Alan Garten, and its media relations office did not immediately return messages on Thursday.
James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, both Democrats, are both conducting wide-ranging inquiries into Trump's business affairs.
Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations, made in news reports and by President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of inflating the value of some assets to impress banks and business partners, but lowering that value when seeking tax benefits.
Vance has been involved in a long court battle seeking access to Trump's tax filings as part of the investigation.