Trump lawyers fight to stop subpoenas seeking his testimony
NEW YORK (AP), A judge indicated that he will make a decision Thursday afternoon regarding former President Donald Trump's struggle to avoid being questioned under oath during a New York investigation into business practices.
Letitia James, New York Attorney General, is trying to enforce subpoenas that her office issued in December for Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka.
James, a Democrat, stated that her civil investigation found evidence Trump's company used "fraudulent and misleading" valuations of assets such as skyscrapers and golf clubs to obtain loans and tax benefits.
After a two hour hearing on Thursday, Judge Arthur Engoron will issue his ruling. James' and Trump lawyers were spared from discussing the legal implications of making the former president testify before a criminal grand jury. He is likely to appeal his decision. This follows a two-hour hearing in which Trump's lawyers said that having Trump sit for a civil examination now, while James' company is under criminal investigation, was an improper attempt to circumvent a state law that bars prosecutors from calling anyone to testify before a grand jury of criminal prosecutors without giving them immunity. In the hearing, Trump's criminal defense lawyer Ronald Fischetti said that he gets immunity for whatever he says or he doesn't say anything."
Trump could testify in civil investigation. Anything he says could be used against him in criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan district attorney's.
Trump could invoke the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during a deposition -- something that he has criticized others for in the past. Fischetti stated that Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a deposition -- something he has criticized others for doing in the past. However, this could still be detrimental to a criminal defense.
"If he follows my advice and goes in, which will be that you cannot answer these questions except... immunity, because that's the law, and take the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, that'll be all that appears on every newspaper front page in the world. Fischetti asked how he could pick a jury for that case.
James would like her investigators be able to question Trump, his two oldest children, who were both executives at the Trump Organization.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney General's Office, stated to the judge that it was not unusual for civil and criminal investigations to be proceeding simultaneously." Trump is indeed a well-known individual. Wallace stated that this is a unique situation. It's unusual that so many people pay attention to the rather dull hearing on subpoena enforcement. The legal issues we are dealing with here are fairly standard.
Eric Trump and Allen Weisselberg (the Trump Organization's finance chief) were also deposed in civil investigations. They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights hundreds more times when they were being questioned by investigators in 2020.
Alina Habba (another lawyer for Donald Trump) accused James of using the civil investigation to gather evidence to support the criminal probe.
She suggested that the civil investigation be stopped until the criminal case is resolved. James' office claims the Trumps are "in a situation where they either reveal evidence in a civil probe or invoke the constitutional right to not testify, which could trigger an adverse inference in civil action."
"How fair is that, Honor?" She said, "We have to stop one."
Alan Futerfas was a lawyer for Ivanka Trump Jr. and stated during the court hearing that there is no reason to believe that they are the targets of the criminal investigation by the district attorney.
Trump made a statement Tuesday ranting against the "sham investigation into a great company that's done a remarkable job for New York" and the racist "continuation of an witch hunt like no other in this Country."
Habba claimed Thursday that James is engaging "selective prosecution" and "viewpoint discrimination" motivated her political ambitions, and disdain for former Republican president, as exemplified by comments she made throughout the years about going after Trump.
Habba stated that this is an exceptional case in which we can prove selective prosecution. She's spoken out so strongly and used every opportunity to vent her hatred against Donald Trump and his family, and she was able to do so because of Habba.
Wallace pointed out that the state attorney general was looking into Trump-related issues as far back 2013 as well as probes into his charitable foundation, and a Trump University realty training program that began long before James was elected.
James included this week a letter from Trump’s long-standing accounting firm in a court filing. It advised him not to rely on financial statements it had prepared over years based on the company's valuations. This was due to questions about their accuracy.
The Manhattan district attorney's office in Manhattan brought Weisselberg and his organization to trial for tax fraud last summer. They were motivated by the evidence in James' civil investigation. Weisselberg was accused of collecting more than $1.7million in compensation that was not on the books. Weisselberg, along with the company, pleaded not guilty.
James had previously sided with Engoron on other matters related to the probe. This included Eric Trump's testimony after his lawyers abruptly cancelled a scheduled deposition.
Engoron immediately ruled in the matter and ordered Eric Trump sit for a deposition within fourteen days.