Trump must answer questions under oath at New York AG, appeals court says

An appeals court on Thursday unanimously rejected an offer by former President Donald Trump and two of his adult children to avoid being forced to answer questions under oath from New York Attorney General investigators, Letitia James, in her civil investigation into Trump Organization business practices.

The decision was the latest legal loss for Trump in his effort to limit James’ investigation, which focuses on allegations that the Trump Organization unlawfully manipulated reported appraisals of various real estate assets for financial gain.

In addition to Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump must comply with subpoenas issued by James to request their testimony, according to the four-page order from a four-judge panel of the Appeals Division of the first judicial department. of Manhattan Supreme Court.

The ruling dismissed arguments raised by Trump’s lawyers at a hearing earlier this month that James should not be allowed to interview him and his children because she also works with the district attorney’s office. of Manhattan on a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump Jr. currently operates the Trump family business with his brother Eric Trump, who previously answered questions under oath from James’ investigators. Ivanka Trump, who served as a senior White House adviser during her father’s presidency, is a former leader of the Trump Organization.

The Trumps could ask the New York Court of Appeals to hear an appeal to overturn Thursday’s decision, but there is no automatic right to have that court, which is the highest in the State, is considering such an effort.

“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,” James said in a statement about the appeals court’s decision.

“We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can escape the law,” the attorney general said.

James’ office said last Friday that Trump paid a $110,000 contempt of court fine imposed on him for failing to comply with a subpoena issued to him to obtain documents that she wanted to see as part of her investigation. But Trump had failed to follow all the steps required by a trial court judge to lift that contempt of court, risking reinstatement of the $10,000-a-day fine originally set by the judge.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday’s appeals committee order.

The ruling upholds a Feb. 28, 2022 ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who ordered the Trumps to submit to depositions.

“Ultimately, a state attorney general begins to investigate a business entity, uncovers extensive evidence of possible financial fraud, and wishes to interview, under oath, several of the entity’s executives, including its namesake. She clearly has a right to do so,” Engoron wrote at the time.

In its decision on Thursday, the appeals panel said, “The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude the civil discovery of related facts.”

The decision noted that the Trumps during depositions could invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination by refusing to answer questions.

The appeals panel also said Engoron “properly declined” a request from the Trump parties to hold “a hearing on the scope and degree of” coordination between James’ office and the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

“The civil investigation was initiated in March 2019 after testimony before Congress by former Trump Organization executive and special counsel Michael Cohen, in which Cohen alleged that
respondent The Trump Organization, Inc. had published fraudulent financial statements,” the decision noted.

“This sequence of events suggests that the investigation was lawfully initiated from the outset.
and well-founded, apart from any parallel criminal investigation undertaken by the public prosecutor.”

And the panel said there was no justification for issuing the subpoenas based on Republican Trump’s claim that the investigation of James, a Democrat, is driven by political animosity.

James “began his investigation after public testimony from a senior company official and reviewed significant volumes of evidence before issuing the subpoenas, according to the ruling.

“The callers have not identified any similar company involved that has not been investigated or any officer of such a company that has not been deposed.”

“Therefore, the appellants have failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from anyone in a similar situation.”

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