A Manhattan judge on Thursday called Donald Trump “just a bad guy” in a scathing rebuke to a lawyer saying the former president was unfairly singled out for investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
At the end of the hearing, State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered Trump — along with his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with the subpoenas. appear and testify under oath in a civilian investigation launched by James into the Trump Organization’s suspicious business practices. .
Lawyer Alina Habba had argued that James was discriminating against Trump over his policies – and that he was part of a “protected class” who should be legally shielded from his investigation.
Habba argued that Trump was being discriminated against for his “point of view”. (Trump called the investigation of James, who is black, “racist.”)
James has “such contempt for that person because he was president, because he’s Donald Trump, and he could probably win again in 24,” Habba said during the hearing. “He has First Amendment rights. He has the right to be a Republican.
Engoron replied: “There is no discrimination of point of view. I’m just saying there isn’t.
When Habba claimed that Trump was part of a “protected class,” Engoron replied, “Ah. What protected class is it a member of? »
“His political talk,” Habba replied. “If he wasn’t sitting as a Republican and wasn’t a former president who could run again, that wouldn’t be happening. So she’s discriminating against him for that.
The judge and his clerk pointed out that the protected classes include race, religion and gender.
“Donald Trump doesn’t fit that model,” Engoron said flatly. “He’s not discriminated against on the basis of race, is he? Or religion, right? He is not a protected class,” the judge added.
“If Mrs. James has something against him, OK, it’s not in my understanding [of] unlawful discrimination. He’s just a villain she should pursue as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.
After the contentious two-hour hearing, Engoron wrote in his ruling that when a state attorney general begins investigating a “business entity, discovers extensive evidence of possible financial fraud, and wishes to question, under oath , several of the leaders of the entities, including its namesake”, it has the right to do so.
For James, failing to investigate — especially after former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen testified that the company was “cooking the books” — would have been a “dereliction of duty,” Engoron noted.
The three Trumps have “the absolute right to refuse to answer questions that they believe could incriminate them,” he wrote.
James is investigating whether Trump or the Trump Organization falsified asset values to get loans and investors, and to pay less tax.
The Trump camp suffered a blow earlier this week after longtime accounting firm Mazars USA severed ties with the Trump Organization, saying 10 years of financial statements were unreliable.
Engoron’s order gave the Trump trio 21 days to provide depositions.
“Today justice prevailed,” James said in a statement.
“No one will be allowed to stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful,” she added. “No one is above the law.”
The decision is likely to be appealed by Trump’s attorneys.