On Thursday, a New York judge ordered Donald Trump's former president and two of his children to answer questions about the Trump Organization's business activities in the civil investigation by the state attorney general.
Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and lawyers for Trump sought to stop the subpoenas from AttorneyGeneral Letitia James's office. They claimed that her investigation was politically motivated and intended to fuel an ongoing criminal investigation into their company by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Arthur Engoron, the state Supreme Court Justice, gave the green light to the three deposed in his ruling. He also directed the former president to hand over documents and information subpoenaed in two weeks and dismissed the Trumps' claim of being selectively targeted.
"In the end, a state attorneygeneral begins investigating a business entity. He uncovers copious evidence regarding possible financial fraud and wants to question several of the principals of the entities, including its namesake. In his eight-page decision, the judge stated that she has the right to do this.
At a hearing earlier that day, Trumps' lawyers indicated that they would appeal to the judge if the depositions were allowed to proceed. Alan Futerfas (the attorney representing the Trump children) stated that there was a possibility that they would appeal.
James released a statement in celebration of the ruling, declaring, "Today justice prevailed."
"No one, regardless of their power, will be allowed to stop justice being pursued." She added that no one is above the law.
James' office is investigating whether to file a civil lawsuitagainst Trump Organization for allegedly inflating financial statements. Her office claimed that it had "found substantial evidence" that Mr. Trump's financial statements to banks, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service were fraudulent.
James would like to know about several "Statements Of Financial Condition" concerning Trump's company. The attorney general claims that many of the statements were inflated by hundreds and millions of dollars, which was approved by Trump.
In January, the attorney general's office stated that it had not reached a decision on whether the evidence it claims it has found is sufficient to warrant legal action.
Lawyers for Trumps claimed James wanted to question the three to gather evidence in an improperly conducted criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorneys' office.
James' office has two lawyers who are helping with the investigation by the district attorney. This has resulted in criminal charges being filed against the Trump Organization as well as its former chief financial officer Allan Weisselberg. Both Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty. The charges include tax fraud and falsifying records.
The judge pointed out that the Trumps could invoke their Fifth Amendment rights during depositions if they were concerned about self-incrimination and that Eric Trump, his son, had taken the Fifth more that 500 times when he was deposed in 2020.
Ron Fischetti, Donald Trump's lawyer, said that this case was "special" because it involves a former president of America. If he answers questions while taking the Fifth, "he will be on every frontpage in the world."
Engoron countered, stating that the law doesn't make a former president any more special. The judge stated that he was a citizen to me.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that asserting one’s Fifth Amendment rights does not constitute an admission of guilt in 2016, Trump presented a new perspective during his 2016 campaign for President. The mob takes the fifth. "If you're innocent, then why are you taking Fifth Amendment?" he stated at an Iowa rally after an aide to rival Hillary Clinton had taken Fifth during an investigation into her email server.
Trump's allegations regarding financial statements have created other problems over the last week. After reviewing the statements, Mazars, his long-standing accounting firm, decided to end ties to the Trump Organization.
"We are writing to inform you that the Statements on Financial Condition for Donald J. Trump for years ending June 30, 2011, -- June 30, 2020 should not be relied upon," the company stated in a letter.
It said, "While we are not concluding that the financial statements as a whole contain material discrepancies, based on the totality of all the circumstances, we believe that our advice to the client to stop relying upon those financial statements is appropriate."
The Trump Organization released a statement Monday pointing out that the Trump Organization's line about "material discrepancies not being present" was "confirmation (that), effectively renders the investigations of the DA or AG moot."
Engoron ridiculed this claim in his ruling. The judge stated that declaring that the Mazars' warning that Trump's financial statements were unreliable suddenly makes the OAG's ongoing investigation moot was as outrageous as it is absurd.
On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee, citing Mazars' disavowal of the statements, urged the General Services Administration to cancel its lease for Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel. The committee stated that Trump had reportedly made a deal to buy the lease in the latter part of last year. He stands to make $100 million profit if it is approved by the GSA.
Alina Habba, Trump's lawyer, stated that Trump denies having "knowledge or information sufficient for belief as to the truth" of specific allegations made by the attorney general earlier this week.
Trump released a long statement the day following that filing, defending his company’s accounting. He stated, "We have an amazing company with incredible assets that are unique and extremely valuable, and in many cases far more valuable than what is listed in our Financial Statements."
He stated that Mazars was "essentially forced to resign due to the long-term misconduct of Letitia James and the Hillary Clinton-run District Attorney's Office of Manhattan".
In a Wednesday letter, the attorney general flagged the statement to Judge.
The letter stated that it was not uncommon for parties in a legal proceeding disagree to differ about facts. "But it's rare for a party publicly to disagree with statements made by his own lawyers in a signed petition -- even if they were filed one day after the pleading was filed."
The judge was asked to ignore Trump's legal responses by Trump and his children. They claimed they "improperly denied knowledge about subjects indisputably know" about them, including Trump Jr.'s job and Trump's position at the company.
The letter stated that Donald Trump Jr., despite his current status as executive vice president for the Trump Organization, denies having knowledge or information sufficient in order to believe that he is.
Futerfas replied in his own letter to judge that the attorney General's case recital contained "vague" allegations, and that all responses by the Trumps were made in "good faith".
A Washington judge set Thursday's trial date for the separate civil case against Trump Organization and Trump’s inaugural committee. This was brought by Washington Attorney General Karl Racine. The lawsuit claims that the inaugural committee used the inaugural funds improperly to benefit the Trump family. Both the company and the committee denied any wrongdoing. The case will go to trial on Sept. 26.