Protests have erupted outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan after Donald Trump returned to his New York skyscraper for the first time since leaving the White House.
Demonstrators on Fifth Avenue held signs reading ‘Arrest Trump’ and ‘Florida Man Go Home’ on Monday morning, March 8, 2021, after Trump arrived in New York solo on Sunday for reasons that remain unclear.
It comes as Trump faces a widening criminal probe into his business dealings in Manhattan, which began as an investigation into hush-money payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump and has expanded to examine potential tax, loan, and insurance fraud at the Trump Organization.
Monday’s demonstrators, who numbered about a dozen, toted a giant inflatable caricature of Trump as they gathered outside of his flagship property, where he previously lived with Melania and son Baron before taking office in 2017.
Melania and Baron did not accompany Trump on his visit to Manhattan, which is expected to last until Tuesday.
Trump was flanked by Secret Service and NYPD officers when he arrived on Sunday night, waving for the cameras as he was greeted by a lone supporter.
After leaving Washington DC in January, the Trumps have been at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Back in 2019, Trump officially changed his primary residence from New York to Florida.
There had been a heavy police presence around Trump Towers in recent days, fueling speculation of his return.
Heightened security measures were put in place around his Midtown Manhattan home after he was elected.
Domestic travelers arriving into New York state no longer have to quarantine or test out if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
t emerged earlier this week that Trump and Melania both quietly received their COVID-19 vaccines at the White House in January.
It comes as his century-old Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester County faces scrutiny as the subject of two state investigations: a criminal probe by Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr and a civil inquiry by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Both investigations focus on whether Trump manipulated the property’s value to reap greater tax benefits from an environmental conservation arrangement he made at the end of 2015, while running for president.
Purchased by Trump in 1995 for $7.5 million, Seven Springs drew renewed scrutiny as he prepared to leave office and was on the cusp of losing legal protections he had as president.
Vance issued new subpoenas in mid-December, and a judge ordered evidence to be turned over to James’ office nine days after Trump departed Washington.
Seven Springs caught investigators´ attention after Trump´s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen told a congressional committee in 2019 that Trump had a habit of manipulating property values – inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.
Cohen testified that Trump had financial statements saying Seven Springs was worth $291 million as of 2012. He gave copies of three of Trump’s financial statements to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform during his testimony.
Cohen said the statements, from 2011, 2012 and 2013, were ones Trump gave to his main lender, Deutsche Bank, to inquire about a loan to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and to Forbes magazine to substantiate his claim to a place on its list of the world’s wealthiest people.
Trump, on his annual financial disclosure forms while president, said the property was worth between $25 million and $50 million.
It comes as his longtime accountant, Allen Weisselberg, faces pressure to turn on Trump in the criminal probe.
Few people have been as deeply involved in Trump’s finances as Weisselberg, a trusted figure in Trump’s family business who began working for Trump’s father, Fred, in 1973 at the company’s Brooklyn office, paying bills and tracking the rental payments from apartment towers.
Legal experts and a source familiar with the criminal investigation say prosecutors’ apparent goal is to convince Weisselberg to cooperate with the probe into Trump’s dealings.
‘They want him to turn,’ said the person familiar with the investigation.
The Manhattan district attorney said in an August filing that the office is investigating ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct’ at the Trump Organization, though he has not fully disclosed the scope of the probe. In a September filing, he said ‘mountainous’ misconduct allegations could justify a grand jury probe into possible tax fraud, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.
Vance’s office and a separate civil probe by New York Attorney General James are both examining whether Trump misrepresented the value of his assets for tax benefits, among other potential violations.
Weisselberg’s unique position in the Trump Organization puts him among a small number of people who could provide prosecutors with crucial evidence of intent to commit fraud. Legal experts say Trump may try to put distance between himself and any controversial valuations of his properties and businesses by citing Weisselberg’s role as financial gatekeeper, as he did in a 2007 defamation case.
When lawyers asked Trump more than a decade ago to identify who estimated values on some of his signature properties, he shrugged and pointed to Weisselberg.
‘I think ultimately probably Mr Weisselberg,’ he said, testifying in the 2007 defamation lawsuit he brought against a journalist but was later dismissed. ‘I never got too much involved, other than I would give my opinion.’
His arrival back in New York comes amid reports of escalating tensions between Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner in the days since they both left DC.
Contradictory reports are circling from people close to the two men over who is to blame for the apparent rift.
Trump and Kushner appeared to actively avoid bumping into each other at the Trump National Doral golf course in Miami last Wednesday.
Trump was spotted leaving the driving range to head to the 18-round course just minutes before his daughter Ivanka and her husband arrived to practice their swing.
Kushner was also absent from Trump’s team ahead of his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference a week ago.
The ex-president has told his inner circle he blames Kushner for his failed second run at office, according to CNN.
Sources close to Kushner, however, say he has ‘checked out of politics because he is ‘done’ with Trump’s false rhetoric of widespread election fraud.
Trump advisor Jason Miller has denied the reports of a rift and told DailyMail.com the two men met up at the club right before their separate golf outings and also had lunch together this past week.