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April 13, 2023
Former President Donald Trump must testify under oath as part of the New York Attorney General’s Office’s investigation into his business practices after a state appellate court ruled against him on Thursday.
The panel of four judges upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s February ruling enforcing subpoenas for Trump and his two eldest children to give deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ probe.
Trump had previously appealed, seeking to overturn the ruling. His lawyers argue that ordering the Trumps to testify would violate their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the four-judge panel wrote, citing the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating records belonging to Trump and the Trump Organization. James, a Democrat, has claimed to have uncovered evidence that Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
At a hearing prior to Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling, Trump’s lawyers argued that having him sit for a civil deposition is an improper attempt to get around a state law barring prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without giving them immunity.
A lawyer for the attorney general’s office told Engoron that it wasn’t unusual to have civil and criminal investigations proceeding at the same time, and Engoron rejected a request from lawyers for the Trumps to pause the civil probe until the criminal matter is over.
Last summer, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged the Trump Organization and its finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud, after he allegedly collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: THE TIMES