A New York judge has ordered a law firm that represents Donald Trump’s real estate company to hand over records of communications to investigators amid New York Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into whether Trump had illegally altered the value of his assets for loans and tax breaks.
After privately reviewing the documents, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP wrongly asserted attorney-client privilege over some documents subpoenaed by James and must hand them over by 4th February.
“The court finds that many of the communications Morgan Lewis marked as privileged were communications addressing business tasks and decisions, not exchanges soliciting or rendering legal advice,” Engoron said in the ruling. “Similarly, any communications within Morgan Lewis speaking to public relations are of a business, not legal, nature.”
The focus of Democratic attorney general James’ investigation is an appraisal of property on 212 acres outside New York City. The probe looks into whether Trump’s company gave an accurate valuation for the property when it served as the basis for about $21.1 million in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year. According to James, Trump’s former tax attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP was “primarily responsible” for handling the easement.
Meanwhile, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP has recently distanced themselves from Donald Trump, saying that it was "transitioning as appropriate to other counsel" in any ongoing matters.
Last year, Trump Organisation chief legal officer Alan Garten accused James of politicising the case. "While we have tried to cooperate in good faith with the investigation at every turn, the NYAG’s continued harassment of the company as we approach the election (and filing of this motion on the first day of the Republican National Convention) once again confirms that this investigation is all about politics," he stated.