In confidential court documents, former President Donald Trump tried to squirm his way out of taking a trip to the New York Attorney General’s office last month, telling a judge that the Secret Service had security concerns about the AG’s office, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
In the days before his Aug. 10 deposition, according to those two sources and a third person familiar with the discussions, Trump’s legal team asked that the contentious interview at the AG’s office be relocated to a more comfortable, convenient spot for the former president: Trump Tower.
The excuse appalled those who read it, spurring them to speak to The Daily Beast.
In correspondence that was filed in secret, Trump’s legal team notified state investigators that the Secret Service was opposed to transporting him to the AG’s office in Manhattan’s Financial District, both sources said. The letter cited some sort of safety concern related to having the former president at the 60-story skyscraper at 28 Liberty Street—which is located just across the street from a Trump-owned building.
Notably, however, these confidential court filings did not come with any kind of official affirmation or statement from the law enforcement agency itself, according to two sources. The correspondence does not appear on the public court docket.
Trump’s last-ditch effort failed and the interview went on as planned, where Trump faced off with AG Letitia James herself. He refused to answer questions by pleading the Fifth hundreds of times, strengthening the AG’s civil case that the Trump Organization was routinely involved in business fraud and dodging taxes and lying about the value of numerous properties across the country.
Reached on Tuesday, the Secret Service was caught by surprise by the allegations and had not been made aware of any perceived security threat—or court filings detailing them.
Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the agency, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that the Secret Service is “unaware of any security challenges at the Office of the New York State Attorney General.”
Trump’s lawyer on the case, Alina Habba, declined to comment about the correspondence, telling The Daily Beast the matter was ordered confidential by the court.
The AG's office declined to comment.
The notion that Trump tried to change the rules of the game shortly before his law enforcement interview followed more than seven months of delay tactics. Trump first ignored a subpoena and refused to show up for the deposition, then he was held in contempt and hit with $110,000 in fines for refusing to turn over records, and then he eventually relented after losing an appeal in a New York state court.
But if Secret Service agents weren’t worried about Trump’s safe space, what could the real reason be? Former Trump associates said they know.
“He’d be sitting behind the big desk, where he has the authority. That’s the only thing I can think of. It’s his desk, with chairs all around. It puts him at a very superior position,” said Barbara A. Res, a former Trump Organization construction executive who walked into that very office up to three times a day for more than four years.
Res, who wrote a tell-all book called Tower of Lies, noted that Trump keeps a very open office that could seem inviting at first. But the power dynamic would change as soon as you’d enter the office.
Three former associates told The Daily Beast they’d expect Trump would position himself in his large, swiveling, burgundy leather chair that sits just slightly higher than the red velvet egg-shaped baskets that serve as guest chairs.
“He commands the room… he feels most comfortable in his space. There’s a feeling of gravitas when you walk into his office… it’s his turf,” said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who met with Trump several times there while planning his 2017 presidential inauguration.
Winston Wolkoff, who also wrote a tell-all book, Melania and Me, said AG investigators would have found themselves surrounded by Time magazine covers with Trump’s face and all kinds of keepsakes on every wall of the office—the inner sanctum of Trump’s shrine to himself.
“It’s the newspapers and memorabilia, his photographs, things of him in his office. Even his small conference room is stacked with stuff of him. It’s hoardersville,” she said.
Trump Tower’s 26th floor also has a large conference room—without the ostentatious Trumpian décor—but former associates said he’d probably vie for his own office.
“It’s his comfort space. Trump believes that the second these investigators enter the building, which has his name on it… that he’s the one in charge,” said Michael Cohen, who served as his longtime lawyer and fixer.
Cohen, who also wrote his own tell-all memoir Disloyal and is now publishing a second one called Revenge, stressed that any attempt by Trump to relocate his scheduled deposition was merely a ploy to change the power dynamic.
“It would mean he’s controlling the room. His office, in his eponymous building, surrounded by his employees,” he said.
The tactic ultimately failed, and Trump was forced to show up at the New York AG’s office. But the seeming lie, that the Secret Service had reservations about the New York AG’s office that would necessitate investigators coming to Trump’s turf, is just another way Trump has used the presidential seal as a shield.
When journalist E. Jean Carroll publicly accused him of raping her decades ago inside a changing room at New York department store Bergdorf Goodman, Trump used a White House press conference to call her a liar—then employed the Justice Department to block her lawsuit. His administration blamed “logistical difficulties” for skipping out the solemn and global commemoration of World War I in Paris on a rainy day in 2018, an excuse which turned out to be complete nonsense. And he ended his presidency by rewarding a long list of cronies and grifters with pardons for remaining loyal to him—and never turning into cooperative witnesses against him. One infuriated source said that blaming the Secret Service this time around was just par for the course.
“He put it all on the Secret Service. It was disgusting,” said one of the two sources who confirmed details about the situation.
The AG’s case against Trump for inflating property values could come to a conclusion any day now. For years, state investigators have been amassing millions of pages of evidence to prove that Trump and his adult kids were in on a scheme to enrich themselves by blatantly lying about the real estate they owned.
James was elected in part because of her promise to go after the real estate mogul, and she quickly made good on her promise with this investigation. The next step could be for the AG’s office to seek judicial action against the Trump Organization, asking Justice Arthur F. Engoron for something equivalent to a summary judgment, essentially declaring that the corporation is operating in violation of New York state law. At that point, the company could be dismantled and fined into oblivion.
He is battling the FBI over his questionable possession of Top Secret government records at his South Florida mansion of Mar-a-Lago, a criminal investigation that could bar him from ever running for public office again—and even land him time in prison.
Meanwhile, he’s also gearing up for the Fulton County District Attorney’s investigation—which already involves a grand jury—into the way he tried to intimidate Georgia’s top elections official into reversing 2020 election results there. He also has a host of smaller civil lawsuits that seek to hold him accountable for beating up New York protesters, duping investors into buying a crappy phone, and abusing his power as president to throw his former attorney, Cohen, back in federal prison.