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Politics

Fight Over Subpoena for Trump’s Testimony Heads to Court

February 17, 2022

NEW YORK — A judge will hear arguments Thursday in former President Donald Trump’s fight to avoid being questioned under oath in a New York investigation into his business practices.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to enforce subpoenas her office issued in December to Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.

James, a Democrat, said her civil investigation has uncovered evidence Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf clubs and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.

She wants her investigators to be able to question Trump and his children, both of whom have been been executives in the Trump Organization.

“The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony because no one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them,” James said in a statement. “We will not be deterred in our efforts to continue this investigation and ensure that no one is above the law.”

In a statement Tuesday, Trump railed against what he called a “sham investigation of a great company that has done a spectacular job for New York and beyond” and a racially motivated “continuation of a Witch Hunt the likes of which has never been seen in this Country before.”

In a court filing this week, James included a letter from Trump’s longtime accounting firm advising him to no longer rely on years of financial statements it prepared based on his company’s valuations, given the questions about their accuracy.

Testifying in a civil investigation could be a potential peril for the Trumps, if they did anything wrong. Anything they say could be used against them in a parallel criminal investigation being overseen by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Even if ordered to comply with the subpoenas, however, they would be free to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at any time in a deposition. Trump’s son, Eric Trump, and the Trump Organization’s finance chief Allen Weisselberg did so hundreds of times when they were questioned by investigators in 2020.

Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered in James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged Weisselberg and the Trump Organization with tax fraud, alleging he collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.

In court papers ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Trump’s lawyers wrote that James had “relentlessly targeted” Trump, his family, company and associates “because of her dislike of his speech and political views.”

The subpoena dispute is now before state Judge Arthur Engoron. He previously sided with James on other matters relating to the probe, including making Eric Trump testify after his lawyers abruptly canceled a scheduled deposition.

Engoron ruled immediately in that matter and ordered Eric Trump to sit for a deposition within 14 days.

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