A New York appeals court has ruled that former US President Donald Trump and two of his adult children must sit for depositions in the New York Attorney General’s civil investigation into the Trump Organization.
In a four-page decision, the court ruled that a lower court “properly rejected the appellants’ arguments that the subpoenas issued by the OAG should be rescinded.”
The appeals court said the criminal investigation did not preclude New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, from continuing her civil investigation, including testimony.
A four-judge panel of the state trial court’s appellate division upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling imposing subpoenas for Trump and his two oldest children — Ivanka Trump and Donald. Trump Jr – to testify as part of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation. .
Trump had appealed, seeking to overturn the decision. His lawyers argued that ordering the Trumps to testify violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude the civil discovery of related facts, during which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the four-judge panel wrote, citing the right of the fifth amendment against self-incrimination.
James’ office subpoenas Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for testimony. Eric Trump has already been deposed and refused to answer more than 500 questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Trump could still appeal the decision. Ronald Fischetti, a lawyer for Trump, had no immediate comment.
“A court has again ruled in our favor and ordered Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to appear before my office to testify under oath. Our investigation will continue undeterred as no one is above of the law,” James tweeted in response to the judgment.
James, a Democrat, said her investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers to obtain loans and tax benefits.
Thursday’s decision could mean a tough decision for Trump on whether he should answer questions or remain silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Anything Trump says in a civil deposition could be used against him in the criminal investigation overseen by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
At a hearing ahead of Engoron’s Feb. 17 decision, Trump’s lawyers argued that having him sit for a civil deposition was an improper attempt to circumvent a state law barring prosecutors from call someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without granting them immunity.
A lawyer for the Attorney General’s office told Engoron that it was not unusual for civil and criminal investigations to be happening at the same time, and Engoron denied a request from lawyers asking the Trumps to put the civil investigation on hold until until the criminal case is over.
Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered in James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax evasion, alleging that he had collected more than $1.7 million ($2.4 million) in off-the-books compensation. Weisselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.