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Appeals court: Trump can’t avoid testifying under oath in civil case

Lawyers for Donald Trump and two of his adult children are resisting subpoenas from the New York attorney general’s office. Those efforts keep failing.


Donald Trump has suffered plenty of legal setbacks lately, and the latest will no doubt be deeply disappointing to the former president. NBC News reported:

A New York appeals court on Thursday denied former President Donald Trump’s bid to escape a deposition in the state attorney general’s probe into his business practices. In a unanimous ruling, a panel of judges in the state Appellate Division denied an attempt by Trump and his two eldest children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, to block subpoenas for their testimony from Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

The relatively brief, four-page ruling is available online here.

I can appreciate why it might be difficult to keep track of the former president’s many legal difficulties, so let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.

It was in March 2019 when New York’s attorney general’s office first opened a civil investigation into the Trump Organization. Over the course of three years, the examination into Trump’s business operation unfolded gradually, leading to subpoenas being issued earlier this year for the former president and two of his adult children.

In defense of the subpoenas, the state attorney general declared in January, “Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit. 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.”

As we’ve discussed, the ongoing probe is examining whether Trump’s business committed fraud in reporting the value of certain properties to banks and tax authorities. And while a controversy surrounding how the Republican’s operation valued its assets may sound like a boring topic, it’s proving to be a surprisingly potent problem.

“In light of the pervasive and repeated nature of the misstatements and omissions, it appears that the valuations in the Statements were generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared,” James added.

Lawyers for Donald Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump fought tooth and nail to quash subpoenas. A lower court rejected their efforts. This morning, an appeals court agreed, concluding that the investigation from state attorney general’s office appears to have been “lawfully initiated at its outset and well founded.”

In case this isn’t obvious, it’s worth emphasizing that this isn’t an instance in which a state A.G. is going after a suspect’s kids. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have long been executives at the controversial family business. If the allegations are true and the Trump Organization engaged in tax fraud and bank fraud, it stands to reason that the company’s executives would be asked to cooperate with the civil investigation.

It’s also worth noting that while this is not a criminal probe — though the Trump Organization is facing criminal charges in a separate matter — that doesn’t make the matter less relevant. It was, after all, civil investigations launched by the New York attorney general’s office that led to the dismantling of Trump’s bogus “university” and the former president’s fraudulent charitable foundation.

Watch this space.