Former president Donald Trump and several of his adult children lost yet another bid to avoid sitting for depositions in a civil fraud investigation brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) after the state’s highest court rejected their latest appeal on Tuesday.
The Empire State’s Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — dismissed Trump’s appeal of a May 26, 2022 ruling against him and his family “upon the ground that no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.”
Last month, the Appellate Division of the First Judicial Department — one of the state’s geography-based intermediate appellate panels — upheld a trial court’s February order that rejected the Trump family motion to quash those subpoenas.
Trump’s attorneys, in various motions and court hearings, have essentially echoed the 45th president’s complaints that James’s investigation is part of political “witch hunt” against him. Specifically, they have argued that the state’s attorney general might be unethical for following through on campaign promises to investigate the Trump family’s alleged financial wrongdoing. Additionally, the family’s attorneys have argued that answering questions under oath would violate their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination because adverse inferences can be drawn when that right is invoked in a civil investigation.
Now, all the way up the line, from the trial court to the state’s top court, judges in New York have rejected those arguments.
“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,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron wrote in his original order directing the depositions to go forward. “She has the clear right to do so.”
Tuesday’s decision is the second time in two months a higher court has upheld the original Engoron order.
In oftentimes blistering language, the lower court noted that James’s investigation was premised on “sworn congressional testimony” by Trump’s former friend and fixer Michael Cohen wherein he claimed the Trump Organization likely inflated assets to insurance companies. Cohen also said that the company’s tax returns were likely to contain similar financial improprieties.
James claims her office has uncovered evidence the Trump namesake family business inflated various land asset values for more favorable loan and insurance terms and that their tax returns deflated the value of certain assets in order to pay lower tax rates. Among those disputed properties are Trump-branded golf courses, high-rises, and Donald Trump’s own personal Manhattan penthouse.
Now, they’ll all likely have to sit and chat about those claims.
The former president, his eldest son Donald Trump, Jr., and his eldest daughter Ivanka Trump previously indicated they would sit for depositions on July 15, 2022 if the Court of Appeals declined to intervene in the typically drawn out legal dispute.
Trump had also sought to stay the subpoenas in a motion filed with the court. Since the court is not even considering the case, however, that request was rejected in Tuesday’s order as “academic.”
Law&Crime reached out to two attorneys for the Trump family but no responses were immediately forthcoming at the time of publication. A similar request for comment was left with James’s office as well.
[image via TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images]
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