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Donald Trump, Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump must testify in New York fraud investigation, appeals court rules

Court rules Trump must testify in fraud probe
Trump family must testify in New York fraud investigation, appeals court rules 03:47

An appeals court Thursday rejected an effort by Donald Trump and two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, to avoid being deposed as part of a civil fraud investigation conducted by the New York attorney general's office.

New York's Appellate Division, First Judicial Department found that a lower court judge, Arthur Engoron, correctly ruled that the Trumps' fear that their depositions might end up being used in a parallel criminal investigation did not shield them from subpoenas.

"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 appellate panel wrote.

Ron Fischetti, an attorney for Donald Trump, said they will "probably" appeal the decision to New York's highest court, which is called the Court of Appeals. 

"Of course I disagree with their ruling," Fischetti said.

The Trumps were challenging subpoenas sent in December seeking "testimony and documents in connection with an investigation into the valuation of properties owned or controlled by Donald J. Trump or the Trump Organization, or any matter which the Attorney General deems pertinent."

New York Attorney General Letitia James praised the ruling in a statement sent to media outlets.

"Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings," James said.

Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly accused James of pursuing the investigation against him as a political ploy. That accusation is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by Trump on December 21. In a phone call with CBS News that day, he called himself an "aggrieved and innocent party" and called James' probe "a hoax."

But the appellate panel wrote Thursday that James' office began its investigation appropriately after March 2019 congressional testimony by former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen raised questions about potentially "fraudulent financial statements."

"(The Attorney General's Office) began its investigation after public testimony of a senior corporate insider and reviewed significant volumes of evidence before issuing the subpoenas," the judges wrote.

On February 9, the Trump Organization's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, cited revelations from the attorney general's investigation in a letter informing the Trump Organization that it would no longer work for the company and that a decade's worth of financial statements Mazars produced for it "should no longer be relied upon."

Attorneys for James' office have indicated during multiple hearings in the last month that the investigation is nearing its conclusion, and that it may lead to an "enforcement action in the near future." They have not elaborated on what enforcement might be.

"There's clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding, although the final determination on filing that proceeding has yet to be made," an attorney for James' office said during a May 13 hearing related to Trump's lawsuit.

Two attorneys from James' office remain assigned to a separate Manhattan district attorney's office criminal probe of Trump and his company, for which a special grand jury recently expired.

That investigation led in July 2021 to criminal fraud and tax evasion charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. In January, they filed motions to dismiss the criminal case. In a response filing made public Monday, a prosecutor urged a New York judge to move forward with the case.

The Manhattan criminal probe has seen apparent turmoil since the February resignations of two lead prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, who quit less than two months after newly elected Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg took office. Bragg succeeded Cyrus Vance Jr., who launched the investigation in August 2018. 

In Pomerantz's resignation letter, which was published in The New York Times, he wrote that Vance "concluded that the facts warranted prosecution" of Trump, but that Bragg had "reached the decision … not to seek criminal charges at the present time."

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