Donald Trump loses lawsuit, must answer questions in New York civil investigation

Former U.S. President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath during the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled on Wednesday. Five, rejected his argument that he was exempt from testifying because his answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.

A panel of four judges in the state trial court’s appellate district backed Judge Arthur Engoron’s February 17 ruling, which enforces a subpoena asking Trump and his two adult children to his – Ivanka and Donald Jr. – gave testimony about the demotion at the New York State Attorney General. Letitia James’ exploration.

“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude the civil discovery of the facts involved, at which a party may exercise prerogative against self-incrimination,” the appeals panel wrote. The appeals panel wrote, citing the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and other legal protections for witnesses.

Trump’s lawyers agreed in March that they would sit for deposit within 14 days of the appeals panel’s decision upholding Engoron’s ruling. They can also appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, delaying Trump’s potential issue and testimony indefinitely.

A notice seeking comment was left with attorneys for Trump.

‘Nobody is above the law’

James praised the ruling, which came just two weeks after the appeals panel heard oral arguments in the case. She tweeted that her investigation “will continue unwavering as no one is above the law.”

“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation of his financial dealings,” James said in a written statement. “We will continue to monitor the circumstances of this case and make sure that no one is able to evade the law.”

James said her investigation uncovered evidence Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations for properties such as golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr are both executives of the Trump Organization and one of their father’s most trusted allies.

The appeals panel, in its ruling, described the investigation as focusing on whether the Trumps had “persistently fraudulent in their operations and financial disclosures.”

Trump, a Republican, denied the charges and said James’ investigation was part of a politically motivated “witch hunt”.

‘Selective prosecution’

When appealing against Engoron’s subpoena ruling, his lawyers argued that James, a Democrat, was engaging in “selective prosecution.” The appeals panel rejected that, saying the investigation was on solid legal grounds and the Trumps presented no evidence that they or their company were “treated differently” from other companies. under the same supervision.

An attorney for the Trumps, Alan Futerfas, told the appeals panel during oral arguments on May 11 that James appeared to be using a civil subpoena to circumvent a New York law that requires the right to immunity for those who testify before a criminal jury.

Judith Vale, acting on behalf of James’ office, countered that there was ample evidence from the civil investigation to support the subpoena for Trump’s testimony.

She also cited legal precedent that allows the attorney general’s office to do so, and said Trump can always invoke their Fifth Amendment against the right to self-impeach – as Trump’s son Eric did. did hundreds of times in the 2020 demotion.

Judge Rolando T. Acosta of the Court of Appeal appeared to agree with that view, heralding Thursday’s ruling as he questioned Futerfas from the bench.

Anything Trump says in a civil investigation of James could be used against him in a criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Last summer, spurred on by evidence uncovered by James’s office, the DA’s office charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud, alleging forced him to collect more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. Weisselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.

Thursday’s appeals court ruling is the latest in a series of legal actions involving Trump and the attorney general’s investigation over the past few weeks.

Last week, Trump paid a $110,000 fine and met several other conditions as he sought to end his contempt of court order Engoron issued April 25 after he was slow to respond to subpoenas. another court from James to look for documents and other evidence.

On Monday, James’s office said it had subpoenaed longtime Trump executive aide, Rhona Graff, and planned to question her under oath next week during the investigation.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in New York is expected to rule soon in the case Trump filed against James in December to block her investigation. Trump’s lawyers want an order to halt the investigation. James’s office is seeking to drop the lawsuit.

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