Former President Donald Trump and his children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. will have to give testimony in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings, a state judge ruled Thursday, denying the Trumps’ bid to block the subpoenas due to a separate criminal probe and their claims the New York AG has a “political agenda.”
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan on August 15, 2021 in New York … [+] City.
New York State Justice Arthur Engoron denied a motion to block subpoenas for Trump and his children, which were issued in December, or to issue a stay that would block them from testifying until James’ separate criminal probe is completed.
Trump’s attorneys had argued the ex-president shouldn’t have to testify because James’ office is also conducting a separate criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, and prosecutors could use their testimony in the criminal probe.
That would be a way to “run around” New York state laws requiring prosecutors to give the Trumps immunity if they testify before a grand jury in the criminal investigation, the Trump attorneys argued during a hearing Thursday.
Engoron ruled the Trump attorneys’ legal argument “completely misses the mark” and “completely overlooks the fact” that the Trumps can simply not answer any questions that could incriminate them, as the Fifth Amendment allows.
Trump attorney Alina Habba also decried James, a Democrat, claiming she has a “political agenda” and bias against Trump during the hearing, which she said tainted the office’s legal case.
The judge was also unpersuaded by those claims, saying the Trump attorneys’ didn’t prove any evidence of Trump being unfairly discriminated against and that James had a First Amendment right to make comments about the ex-president, noting the fact “that a prosecutor dislikes someone does not prevent a prosecution.”
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Engoron ordered Trump and his children to testify within 21 days of his order, though Trump attorney Ron Fischetti told the judge Thursday the legal team planned to appeal the order.
“For [James’ office] not to have investigated the original respondents, and not to have subpoenaed [Trump and his children], would have been a blatant dereliction of duty,” Engoron wrote in his ruling. “Indeed, the impetus for the investigation was not personal animus … but was sworn congressional testimony by former Trump associate Michael Cohen that respondents were ‘cooking the books.’ ”
“This is a unique case. This is the former president of the United States,” Fischetti told Engoron on Thursday as he argued Trump shouldn’t be deposed, saying that if Trump’s deposition was to be made public in a court filing, it would “be on the front page of every newspaper in the world.”
James’ office launched a civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings in March 2019, and the AG announced in January her office has so far found “significant evidence” the company falsely inflated the value of many of its assets for economic gain. Her investigation has also expanded to include a criminal probe into the company’s financials, which is being undertaken in conjunction with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, she announced in May. Trump has strongly opposed the investigation and filed a countersuit in response trying to stop it. Engeron has previously ruled in favor of James in other tussles over witness testimony in the probe, ordering Eric Trump to testify in September 2020. The civil investigation would result in James bringing a lawsuit against the Trump Organization if she finds there’s enough evidence to do so, which could result in a court imposing penalties on the company ranging from monetary damages to revoking the Trump Organization’s business certificate.
James revealed in a court filing Monday that Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA had dropped him as a client and informed the Trump Organization that financial statements prepared for the ex-president between 2011 and 2020 “should no longer be relied upon,” partially given the potential inflated assets James has uncovered. The Trump attorneys claimed in a statement the letter “effectively renders the investigations by the DA and AG moot”—an argument Engoron said Thursday was “preposterous” and “reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, … George Orwell (‘War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength’); and ‘alternative facts.’”
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