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Trump's lavish Seven Springs estate under scrutiny by Manhattan district attorney

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A lavish Trump family property in Westchester, New York, appears to be facing fresh scrutiny from New York prosecutors. An engineer who worked on the Seven Springs estate told CBS News he was recently subpoenaed as part of a criminal probe into Mr. Trump and the Trump organization. CBS News investigative reporter Graham Kates joins "Red and Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano with more on that exclusive interview and why prosecutors are looking into a $21.1 million tax deduction.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: A lavish property owned by former President Trump appears to be facing fresh scrutiny from Manhattan prosecutors. For the past 18 months, New York District Attorney Cy Vance has been working on a criminal probe into possible bank, tax, and insurance fraud by the former president and his company. An engineer who once worked on Mr. Trump's Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, New York told CBS News he was recently subpoenaed by those prosecutors.

In an exclusive interview, Ralph Mastromonaco said he turned over maps of the property and other documents he produced for the Trump organization nearly a decade ago. We should note, there is no indication that Mr. Mastromonaco is being investigated for wrongdoing. CBS News investigative reporter Graham Kates broke this story, and he joins me now from Westchester. Hi, there, Graham, good to see you. So Mr. Trump has been under investigation by Manhattan prosecutors since 2018. How has the investigation's focus shifted?

GRAHAM KATES: It's really widened since the beginning. They were originally looking at alleged hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to adult film star Stormy Daniels. And now we know through court documents that they're looking at, as you mentioned, several different types of fraud potentially, and really look at a wide swath of the former president's finances. And of course, even seeking his tax returns.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, this is not the first time Mr. Trump's Seven Springs property has come under scrutiny. What's behind prosecutors' interest?

GRAHAM KATES: This particular property-- the Trump organization has valued really widely over time. We're talking from as low as $25 million to as high as nearly $300 million reportedly on different, whether it's loan forums, tax documents. And that's drawn the scrutiny of not only criminal investigators but also a civil investigation being run by the New York Attorney General's office. And both sides appear to be really focused on something called a conservation easement that the Trump organization sought in 2015. That netted them a roughly $21 million tax deduction.

ELAINE QUIJANO: And Graham, what do we know about how the Trump family has actually used the property?

GRAHAM KATES: They purchased it in 1997 with this goal of developing it, originally to be a golf course. And that didn't work out because of local opposition to the course. And then over time, they thought about subdividing it. And that's what Mastromonaco, the engineer, worked on, helping them figure out how to get through the local town boards, subdividing the property so that they could build a bunch of other mansions on it and sell those mansions in that property. And that ultimately didn't work out also, again, because of local opposition. And so ultimately, it's almost like they gave up on developing it and took this conservation easement as a way to at least recoup some money on it.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So you just touched on it, but what more can you tell us about Ralph Mastromonaco and what more can you tell us about the documents that he turned over to investigators?

GRAHAM KATES: Mastromonaco's an engineer and he was brought in to do a couple of things like stormwater assessment, some other things related to the property. And it's not really clear why investigators from two different New York offices would so badly want his communications with the Trump organization. But we know already the Attorney General's office, which is running the civil probe, had a kind of a long protracted battle with the Trump organization on whether its communications with Mastromonaco were protected by attorney-client privilege. And a judge in December ruled that the answer was no. And now just this past month, the criminal investigation from Cy Vance came to Mastromonaco and sought his communications.

And again, this very well could have nothing to do with what he did for the organization as much as how they interpreted his work. And so his position on it was, I did this work for them long before that easement. And I don't think it's going to come down to anything that I did for them. But investigators clearly want to get a better picture of how the organization handled the work that he did for them.

ELAINE QUIJANO: And on that note of trying to get a better picture here, more broadly, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance wants to see the former president's tax records. Graham, what's the latest on that?

GRAHAM KATES: So of course in mid-2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the grand jury run by Cy Vance can in fact get the taxes. But they left open another route of appeal for Trump. And he took that. And we are currently waiting. And it's supposed to drop really at any time now, for the Supreme Court's decision on whether they'll hear arguments in that latest appeal on his taxes. And of course, if they said no, then the expectation is that Vance's office will get them in relatively short order.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, Graham Kates with some intriguing turn of events there. Graham, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

GRAHAM KATES: Thank you.