Former President Trump on Thursday was ordered to testify under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices.
Judge Arthur Engoron also ruled that the former president and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., must comply with subpoenas that New York Attorney General Letitia James issued in December.
Engoron ordered Trump and both of his adult children to sit for a deposition within 21 days. Trump himself must turn over documents within 14 days.
The Trumps can appeal the decision.
The ruling was issued following a two-hour hearing with lawyers for the Trumps and the attorney general’s office.
“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,” Engoron wrote in his decision.
During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers argued that having the former president sit for a civil deposition is an improper attempt to bypass a state law because there is also a criminal investigation into the former president’s company. The state law bars prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without giving them immunity.
“If she wants sworn testimony from my client, he’s entitled to immunity. He gets immunity for what he says, or he says nothing,” Trump’s criminal defense lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, said in the hearing, according to the Associated Press.
Engoron said that argument by Trump lawyers “completely misses the mark.”
“Neither OAG nor the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed the New Trump Respondents to appear before a grand jury. Indeed, OAG affirms in its reply that it is not conducting a grand jury investigation of respondents,” Engoron wrote. “Furthermore, New York prosecutors do not call the subjects of their criminal investigations to testify before grand juries about their suspected criminal conduct without first securing an immuity waiver.”
“There is no evidence to support the New Trump Respondents’ suggestion that, in the absence of a parallel civil investigation, OAG would have been forced to subpoena the New Trump Respondents to appear before a grand jury, in which case they would have been entitled to immunity,” Engoron continued.
The judge’s ruling on Thursday follows repeated Trump efforts, most recently in December, to put an end to James’ investigation into his business practices. In a lawsuit that Trump filed in the Northern District of New York, the former president demanded a federal judge to declare that James’s civil investigation “harness[es] state police power to retaliate against, injure, and harass a political opponent.”
Trump has repeatedly cast the state AG’s investigation as politically motivated, describing it as a “witch hunt” and “harassment.” The former president has also claimed it violates his first, fourth, and fourteenth amendment rights, as well as his civil rights.
“For years, [James] has flagrantly abused her investigatory powers to target her political adversaries and advance her career,” the complaint filed in December reads. “Her relentless attacks on Donald J. Trump serve as a prime example.”
Last November, James requested a deposition of the former president under oath. Her investigation has occurred in parallel and in tandem with a criminal probe led by the Manhattan District Attorney — formerly Cy Vance, now Alvin Bragg. Both investigations center on whether the former president inflated or deflated the value of his real estate holdings for banks and tax authorities.
Another Trump adult child, Eric Trump, and the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO have previously sat for depositions n James’ civil investigation. They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights hundreds of times when they were questioned in 2020.