NEW YORK (AP) – The editor of Forbes magazine testified before the grand jury on Thursday to hear evidence in a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump and his business practices, answering questions about an article examining whether the former president has inflated his wealth.
Forbes editor-in-chief Randall Lane wrote in an article on the business magazine’s website that he was asked about articles he wrote in 2015 about Trump’s fixation on his ranking in the list of the magazine’s richest people.
Lane said deputy fortune editor Chase Peterson-Withorn also testified, responding briefly to questions about a 2017 article he wrote about the size and value of Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower.
Lane’s disclosure is the clearest indication yet that Manhattan prosecutors investigating Trump are focusing on whether he committed fraud by exaggerating his wealth, not only to Forbes but to banks to secure loan terms. more favorable.
The investigation has already led to tax evasion charges in June against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its long-time CFO Allen Weisselberg. They are accused of tax evasion on lucrative employee benefits paid to executives.
Lane said he was questioned for about 20 minutes by Mark Pomerantz, a former Mafia prosecutor attending the investigation, and asked to confirm various things, including the methodology of the Americans’ list. richest in the magazine and Trump’s statements in the article that “I look better if I’m worth $ 10 billion than if I’m worth $ 4 billion” and higher net worth “was good for funding “.
Pomerantz also asked about Trump’s claims, reported in the 2015 article, that his holdings in Trump Tower were worth five or six times the magazine’s estimate of $ 530 million and that his apartment was worth at least double the $ 100 million the magazine valued it at. Lane said. The editor said Peterson-Withorn testified for about five minutes and was questioned specifically about Trump’s claim that the apartment was 33,000 square feet.
Messages requesting comment were left with Trump’s attorney.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Revealing his testimony, Lane said he and Peterson-Withorn have been fighting over subpoenas for their testimony since September, raising concerns that testifying on a hot topic could erode their journalistic independence and have a negative impact. dissuasive effect on the sources which provide them information.
Lane said the judge overseeing that grand jury limited the scope of their questioning to confirming the accuracy of the Trump stories. Lane said everything he and Peterson-Withorn had testified to had already been revealed in their articles, writing, “If we were sitting on something of interest, we would have already shared it with our readers.”
Although the grand jury proceedings are secret, nothing prevents witnesses called before them from speaking about their testimony.
Prosecutors began examining how Trump and his company valuate their assets after Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen told a congressional committee in 2019 that the developer-turned-politician used to manipulate real estate values.
Cohen said Trump would inflate stocks to get favorable loan terms and downplay them to reap tax benefits.
Cohen gave a congressional committee copies of Trump’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 financial statements – statements he said Trump gave to his main lender, Deutsche Bank, to inquire about a loan to buy the NFL Buffalo Bills, and to Forbes to back up his claim for a place on his list of the richest people in the world.
Trump would “go into a frenzy” when Forbes and Fortune compiled their annual lists of the richest people in the world and ask Cohen and longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg to inflate the valuations to come up with an acceptable number, Cohen wrote in his memoir âTreacherous. “
Lane wrote in his 2015 article that other real estate developers told the magazine “putting a high estimate of Forbes 400 on a banker’s desk can sometimes help get bigger loans and better rates.”