Friday, December 09, 2022

Trump must testify at New York civil probe, appeals court rules

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Former President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath in a New York state civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

A four-judge panel in the state’s lower court appellate section upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Angoron’s February 17 decision summoning Trump and his two eldest children to testify in Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation. was implemented.

Trump appealed, seeking to overturn the ruling. His lawyers argued that ordering Trump to testify violated his constitutional rights because his answers could be used in parallel criminal investigations.

“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of relevant facts on which a party may exercise privilege against self-incrimination,” wrote the four-judge panel, citing the Fifth Amendment Act against self-incrimination. .

A message seeking comment was left with Trump’s lawyers and James’ office. Trump can still appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

James, a Democrat, has said his investigation has revealed evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or deceptive” valuations of properties such as golf courses and skyscrapers to obtain loans and tax benefits. .

Thursday’s decision could mean a difficult decision for Trump on whether to answer questions, or remain silent, citing his Fifth Amendment Act against self-incrimination. Anything Trump says in a civil statement could be used in a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office against him.

In a hearing prior to Angoron’s February 17 ruling, Trump’s lawyers argued that having him sit for a civil statement was an unfair attempt around a state law that would allow prosecutors to testify before a criminal grand jury. for preventing them from giving evidence without giving immunity.

A lawyer for the attorney general’s office told Engoron that it was not unusual for civil and criminal investigations to happen at the same time, and Engoron declined a request from Trump’s attorneys that the civil investigation be withheld until the criminal case was concluded. be given.

Last summer, prompted by evidence uncovered in James’s civil investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office accused the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief Alan Weiselberg of tax fraud, alleging that he had paid off-the-book compensation. Collected more than $1.7 million in Weiselberg and company have pleaded not guilty.

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