A New York state judge ruled on Thursday that former President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter Ivanka Trump must sit for a deposition as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization made fraudulent asset evaluations.
“In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so.” Judge Arthur F. Engoron wrote in his decision.
Judge denies Trumps' request to quash subpoenas. Trump has to turn over docs within 14 days, and he and Jr and Ivanka must appear for deposition within 21 days.https://t.co/xIvV4CfXZC pic.twitter.com/1fDxYbuWQ7
— Mike Sacks (@MikeSacksEsq) February 17, 2022
The ruling came at the end of a tense hearing in which Trump’s lawyers alleged, as they’ve been doing for some time now, that James’ investigation is motivated by politics. Judge Engoron wasn’t buying it. “Indeed, this Court’s in camera review of the thousands of documents responsive to [James’] prior subpoenas demonstrates that [her office] has a sufficient basis for continuing its investigation, which undercuts the notion that this ongoing investigation is based on personal animus, not facts and law,” he wrote.
The Trumps are likely to appeal Judge Engoron’s ruling, but as it stands they will have to sit for a deposition within 21 days. Trump was also ordered to turn over subpoenaed documents within 14 days. The former president addressed the investigation in a lengthy statement released Thursday night, alleging that James is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships and the political process.” Trump went on to cite his vote total in the 2020 election as one of the reasons he should not be investigated.
James subpoenaed Trump, Don Jr., and Ivanka in December, and the Trumps have since been fighting tooth and nail to avoid testifying. Trump last month sued James over the probe. “She is a sick person who really truly has taken her oath of office and just weaponized it,” Trump attorney Alina Habba claimed in an interview at the time.
In filing a motion last month to compel testimony from the Trumps, James wrote in a statement that she uncovered “specific evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions” in order to receive favorable tax rates and loans. One of those assets, according to the filing, was Trump’s Manhattan residence. “The valuations of Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower since at least 2012 were based on the assertion that the triplex apartment was 30,000 square feet in size,” the statement said. “However, the actual size of Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment was 10,996 square feet, and documents confirming that fact were signed by Mr. Trump himself in 2012.”
James noted in the filing that Trump’s other child, Eric, pleaded the Fifth Amendment “in response to more than 500 questions over six hours” when he was deposed in Oct. 2020.
James disclosed in a court filing on Monday that Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, cut ties with the Trump Organization, stating that a decade’s worth of Trump’s personal financial statements could not be trusted. Trump released a lengthy statement responding to Mazars dropping the Trump Organization. He blamed James’ investigation. “Mazars has been threatened, harassed, and insulted like virtually no other firm has ever been,” the former president wrote. “They were essentially forced to resign from a great long-term account by the prosecutorial misconduct of a highly political, but failed, gubernatorial candidate Letitia James.”
In addition to the civil investigation, James is also involved in a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization. Last summer, the Manhattan district attorney charged the Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, with 15 counts of financial crimes, including federal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and grand larceny. Both pleaded not guilty.
This post has been updated.