Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump must give evidence in New York fraud probe, appeals court says

‘Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,’ New York attorney general says

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 26 May 2022 19:48
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Former president Donald Trump and his two eldest children must answer questions from New York Attorney General’s Office investigators under oath as part of the long-running probe into whether his eponymous real estate company engaged in fraudulent business practices, a New York State appellate court said Thursday.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division upheld a 28 February ruling by Judge Arthur Engoron ordering Mr Trump and his children to appear for depositions and said correctly rejected Mr Trump’s argument that he, his son Donald Trump Jr, and his daughter Ivanka Trump should instead be permitted to testify before a grand jury as part of the paralell criminal investigation being conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr.

The New York Attorney General’s office has been investigating whether the Trump Organisation violated New York State laws by providing over-inflated real estate valuations to banks in order to secure loans while providing tax officials with significantly lower valuations on the same properties. Attorney General Letitia James launched the probe in March 2019 after Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s long-time attorney and fixer, told Congress that the company had engaged in such fraudulent practices.

The Trumps had claimed Ms James was using the subpoenas issued pursuant to the civil fraud probe to circumvent a provision in New York law which states that anyone testifying before a grand jury receives immunity from prosecution for anything they say during testimony unless they specifically waive that immunity.

“Individuals have no constitutional or statutory right to be called to testify before a grand jury under circumstances that would give them immunity from prosecution for any matter about which they testify,” the panel said in an unsigned opinion, though they also noted that the Trumps could choose to testify under a different provision in New York law which allows the “subject” of an investigation to give evidence after waiving both their immmunity and their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The panel also affirmed Judge Engoron’s rejection of Mr Trump’s claim that a court should quash subpoenas for his and his children’s testimony because the long-running investigation being overseen by Ms James is politically motivated, writing that Ms James’ public statements about the case “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”.

They added that the subpoenas do not “frustrate” the Trumps’ right to testify before a grand jury because it is “unlikely” that Ms James’ office would grant “the primary subjects of the criminal investigation” immunity to entice them to testify before one.

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

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