Lawyers for Trump and his two older children filed documents Monday with the state’s appeals department, seeking to overturn Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s February 17 ruling. They argue that Trump’s order to testify violates their constitutional rights because their answers can be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
In an eight-page decision, Engaran set a March 10 deadline for Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., to testify. Trump’s lawyers have asked the appellate court to defer them from questioning while he hears the case.
The court did not set a date for the dispute. He usually makes decisions a few months after that, but may be inclined to make a decision on an expedited basis, given the urgency of New York Attorney General Leticia James’ investigation and Trump’s desire to overturn Engaron’s ruling quickly.
James’ office left a message asking for comment. In a statement Friday as Trump’s lawyers prepared their appeal, the attorney general signaled she was ready for a long struggle to force them to testify.
“Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have been ordered by the court to conduct our lawful investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial transactions, “James said in a statement. “While they have the right to demand adjournment, they cannot prevent us from following the facts and the law wherever they lead. Make no mistake: my office will continue to deal with this matter without fear or help because no one is above the law.”
Trump did not immediately comment on the appeal. In a statement after Engaron’s decision, he called the ruling “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in history.”
“NO MATTER!” he said, claiming he could not get a fair hearing in New York “because of the hatred of me by judges and the judiciary” and accusing James’ office of “doing everything within his corrupt judgment to interfere in has business relations and in the political process. “
James, a Democrat, said her investigation found evidence that Trump’s campaign, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or deceptive” valuations of assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers to obtain loans and tax breaks.
In his ruling, Engaron wrote: “The Attorney General is launching an investigation into the entity, finds ample evidence of possible financial fraud and wants to interrogate several heads of entity, including his namesake, under oath. She has a clear right to do so. “
If Engaron’s decision is upheld, it could force Trump to take a tough decision on whether to answer questions or remain silent, citing his Fifth Amendment, which is a right against self-incrimination. Anything Trump says in his civil testimony could be used against him in a criminal investigation overseen by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
At a hearing before Engaron’s decision, Trump’s lawyers argued that his participation in civil testimony was an improper attempt to circumvent state law that forbids prosecutors from summoning anyone to testify before a grand jury without giving them immunity.
An attorney general’s lawyer told Engoron that it is unusual for civil and criminal investigations to continue at the same time, and Engoron rejected lawyers’ request that Trump suspend the civil investigation until the criminal case is completed.
Last summer, based on evidence found during James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office accused Weiselberg and the Trump Organization of tax fraud, claiming he had collected more than $ 1.7 million in compensation outside the report. Weiselberg and company pleaded not guilty. The future of the criminal investigation was called into question last week when the two prosecutors who led it abruptly resigned.
On Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked the appeals court to consider three issues:
– whether James’ office violates their rights by issuing subpoenas to testify, while participating in the investigation of a criminal case;
– whether the protection of Grand Jury witnesses can be lifted in accordance with state law, such as immunity, “if the same agency involved in the investigation of criminal cases simply initiates a” civil “investigation into the same cases”;
– and whether Enganran was wrong in rejecting Trump’s claim that James was involved in the election prosecution.
In his ruling, Engaran said the thousands of pages of evidence he had reviewed in the case showed that there were sufficient grounds to continue the investigation, and undermined “the notion that this ongoing investigation was based on personal hostility rather than facts and law.” “.
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