By MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — A
judge is hearing 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.
Trump gave a detailed rebuttal to the accounting firm’s decision in his statement, which James’ office said showed he was fully aware of the nature of his financial statements.
In a letter Wednesday to the state judge hearing the subpoena dispute, Arthur Engoron, James’ office said Trump’s statement contradicted legal pleadings in which his lawyers said they either had no knowledge or limited information
about allegations that the documents were misleading.
“It is not unusual for parties to a legal proceeding to disagree about the facts. But it is truly rare for a party to publicly disagree with statements submitted by his own attorneys
in a signed pleading —
let alone one day after
the pleading was filed,” lawyers for the attorney general’s office wrote.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., responded that the letter from the attorney general’s office, the night before Thursday’s hearing, was “a last-ditch effort
to avoid addressing the important constitutional and statutory issues.”
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.”
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.
FILE – New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a rally in support of home care workers in New York, Dec. 14, 2021. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in a legal fight over whether former President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath in a New York investigation into his business practices.