Court Battles

Appeals court rules Trump must testify in NY probe

Former President Trump and two of his adult children must provide testimony in the New York attorney general’s probe into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled Thursday, rejecting his challenge to a subpoena.

A four-judge panel for the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Trump’s appeal in the case, dismissing the former president’s arguments that the subpoena is part of a politically motivated investigation.

“OAG began its investigation after public testimony of a senior corporate insider and reviewed significant volumes of evidence before issuing the subpoenas,” the panel wrote in its four-page decision, using an acronym for the Office of Attorney General. “Appellants have not identified any similarly implicated corporation that was not investigated or any executives of such a corporation who were not deposed. Therefore, appellants have failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from any similarly situated persons.”

The ruling also applies to Donald Trump Jr., who is currently an executive vice president at the family’s company, and Ivanka Trump, who stepped down as a corporate officer in 2017.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is conducting a civil investigation into potential fraud at the Trump Organization, applauded the decision.

“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,” James said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law.”

James has said that her investigation has found evidence that the Trump Organization fraudulently misrepresented the value of its assets in the years before Trump was elected.

Trump attorney Alan Futerfas was not immediately able to comment on the decision.

The ruling is not certain to bring an end to Trump’s legal battles against James. He could still appeal the decision to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest judicial body. And Trump is also asking a federal judge to block James from carrying out the investigation, though it’s not clear when that lawsuit might be decided.

Trump had appealed a lower court ruling ordering him to provide testimony and documents to James’s office. Judge Arthur Engoron found Trump in contempt earlier this month for failing to comply with the order to provide business records to the investigators.

The former president’s lawyers had echoed his public accusations that James’s investigation was motivated by political animus. They also argued that by forcing him to testify in the civil investigation, the attorney general is jeopardizing Trump’s right against self-incrimination in the midst of a parallel criminal probe being carried out by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Futerfas had pointed to James’s comments promising to go after Trump while campaigning for her office as evidence that the civil investigation is improper and intended to feed information to criminal investigators.

“They have never denied that whatever information they get under the guise of this civil subpoena is going to go right to the DA’s office,” Futerfas told the appellate panel at a hearing earlier this month.

But the judges also rejected that argument on Thursday, saying James had a valid basis for launching an investigation, citing the congressional testimony that Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen gave in 2019 detailing fraudulent practices at Trump’s business.

“The political campaign and other public statements made by OAG about appellants do not support the claim that OAG initiated, or is using, the subpoenas in this civil investigation to obtain testimony solely for use in a criminal proceeding or in a manner that would otherwise improperly undermine appellants’ privilege against self-incrimination,” the panel said in its decision.

Updated at 12:39 p.m.

Tags Arthur Engoron Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr. Letitia James Letitia James Michael Cohen New York New York Attorney General Trump Organization Trump probes

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