trump plane gage skidmore
President Donald Trump at his plane (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

New York Times reporter Susanne Craig was anonymously mailed Donald Trump's tax information during the 2016 election after the candidate pledged that after he was audited he would turn over everything. Trump never turned over anything and it was only thanks to years of lawsuits that even the House Oversight Committee was finally able to see the information. She has become among the go-to people when it comes to investigating the finances of Trump and his businesses.

Speaking to MSNBC on a panel of reporters and experts about the New York attorney general's announcement Wednesday, Craig explained that the piece of AG Letitia James' investigation that will be difficult for Trump to explain is his appraiser.

Typically when someone buys a property or asks for a loan there is an appraiser who calculates the value of the property or any assets being put up for collateral. Trump got appraisals from the commercial real estate brokerage company Cushman & Wakefield, but went on to ignore their numbers, the court filing says.

"You hear a lot of hyperbole, 'I've got the best building, I've got the best golf course,'" she said of Trump's brags. "And he says that a lot. So, why has this become a criminal issue? And in these case, I got to tell you, they are very hard to prove with valuations. And the reason why, is people like Donald Trump and other people when they come in, they have a valuation that's usually been prepared by an outside company. Cushman & Wakefield in this case. It could be any company that you go to and get an appraisal. You can say I relied on outside advice."

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Appraisal groups walk through the way that they were able to estimate the value based on comparable properties, etc, which puts the burden on them if it proves to be radically different from reality. But in Trump's case, he essentially crafted his own appraisals.

"What I found powerful" Craig continued, "the attorney general mentioned it in her remarks, which is he had professional advice and he ignored it. And went with another number. And that's where they got that over and over and over. I'm still going through it, but I found cases already, where you're seeing that. That's where he gets into big trouble, where he had an appraiser come in and say, this building's worth $100 million, and he said no, it's worth $180, and that's the document that went to the bank. That's the sort of stuff that I was getting excited about when I was reading it."

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Trump is in big trouble -- here's why