Trump must testify in New York investigation, judge rules

Former President Donald Trump and his two adult children will be required to testify under oath in a civil investigation by the New York attorney general into their family business, a judge said. ruling on Thursday.

The decision from Judge Arthur Engoron in New York on Thursday came after a challenging trial in which attorneys for Trump and his two children, Donald Jr and Ivanka, argued that their clients were unfairly targeted because of the former president’s political views.

They also stated that any information gathered during the civil investigation could be used against Trump in a related crime investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, began her investigation in 2019 after Michael CohenTrump’s former attorney told Congress that the Trump Organization routinely inflates the value of its real estate assets for financial security and other interests while underestimating them for other purposes.

In a court filing in January, she said her office found out “substantial evidence“About fraud by a family-owned business. James also noted that another Trump child, Eric Trump, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 500 times when questioned by her office.

The Trumps must submit for questioning within 21 days, according to the judge’s ruling. He also gave the former president 14 days to comply with a request for handwritten notes and other business records that the attorney general claimed Trump had withheld.

“No one should stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they may be,” James said in a statement following the decision. “No one is above the law.”

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has repeatedly dismissed James’ investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt led by a Democratic politician.

During Thursday’s hearing, Trump’s lawyers sought to prove it by citing dozens of comments from James’ campaign, including one when she warned: “Oh We will definitely sue him. We’re going to really hurt in his ass. “

They also argued that the attorney general’s subpoena was, in effect, a plot to gather information that crime investigators could then use against the family. Under New York law, witnesses who testify before juries are usually exempted – something Trump claims they should be entitled to. At a minimum, they ask the court to delay the civil investigation until any criminal case is resolved.

However, in a written opinion, the judge concluded that the evidence James had presented was sufficient to undercut the view that her investigation was based on “personal hatred, not lawsuits and laws”. If anything, Engoron wrote, it would be “a flagrant omission of duty” if left uninvestigated.

Engoron also offered a puzzling view of the Trump Organization’s defiant response earlier this week after its longtime accountant, Mazars, said it was withdrawing 10-year financial statements it had prepared for company for them can’t rely on.

A Trump spokesman said the Mazars’ letter confirmed that “their work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards” and found no material differences. As such, it “effectively displays the DA’s investigations and the AG’s debate”.

The judge likened that statement to the double utterance described by author George Orwell in his novel of incest, 1984: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is power.”

“The claim that the Mazars’ red flag warning that Trump’s financial statements are unreliable suddenly causes [attorney-general’s] Engoron wrote.

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