The New York Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that former US President Donald Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. will be required to attend depositions regarding an investigation launched last year into their family business practices. The judge also rejected an attempt by the Trumps to freeze the New York Attorney General’s investigation.
Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a memorandum in opposition to the family’s attempt to quash their subpoenas relating to the investigation. Trump’s lawyers argued that if James’ office wanted to get their testimony on the financial statements, she should place them before a grand jury in order to be granted immunity.
James is investigating whether the Trump family had previously misstated the value of certain assets on their annual financial statements as well as on their tax submissions, loan applications and other documents. In addition, the office is looking into whether the family made material misrepresentations to third parties regarding their business’ financial statements and other economic benefits.
The two-hour hearing conducted Thursday addressed numerous claims, including the fact that the Trumps believed this case was moot, as the family’s accounting firm MazarsUSA deemed the 10 year-long financial filings to be unreliable. Judge Arthur Engoron responded:
The idea that an accounting firm’s announcement that no one should rely on a decade’s worth of financial statements it issued based on the numbers submitted by an entity somehow exonerates that entity and renders an investigation into its past practices as moot is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll–When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said … it means just what I chose it to mean — neither more nor less.
Engoron asked why the Trumps could not just simply invoke their Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination and not answer questions asked of them during the deposition, noting Eric Trump’s deposition which was given earlier in the investigation. Trump’s lawyer argued that this is all a political stunt, and one which is unfairly biased towards the former President. However, Engoron mentioned that James has the right to question and investigate a business entity to uncover possible evidence of fraud.
Engoron has ordered the Trumps to sit for depositions within 21 days of his order, with 14 days to comply with the attorney general’s demands for certain documents and records.