NEW YORK – Former President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath in the New York state civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.
A four-judge panel in the state court’s Appellate Division upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 decision compelling subpoenas for Trump and his two oldest children to testify in Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation.
Trump had appealed to overturn the verdict. His attorneys argued that ordering the Trumps to testify violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude the civil discovery of related facts in which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the four-judge panel wrote, citing Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Messages requesting comment were left with attorneys for the Trumps and James’ office. The Trumps could still appeal the verdict in the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
James, a Democrat, said her investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to obtain loans and tax benefits.
Thursday’s ruling could mean a difficult decision for Trump on whether to answer questions or remain silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Anything Trump says in civil testimony could be used against him in the criminal investigation being overseen by the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.
At a Feb. 17 hearing before Engoron’s verdict, Trump’s attorneys argued that having him for a civil hearing to circumvent a state law that prohibits prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury was an improper attempt to without granting them immunity.
A lawyer for the attorney general’s office told Engoron that it’s not uncommon for civil and criminal investigations to run concurrently, and Engoron denied a request by attorneys for the Trumps to stay the civil investigation until the criminal case was resolved.
Last summer, Manhattan prosecutors charged the Trump Organization and its longtime chief of finance, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud, spurred by evidence uncovered in James’s civil investigation and alleging he had more than $1.7 million in unscheduled compensation collected. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/26/trump-loses-appeal-must-testify-in-new-york-civil-probe/ Trump loses appeal, has to testify in New York civil trial