Trump and two of his children must testify in tax fraud case, court rules

Ex-president, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump must testify under oath, says New York attorney general Letitia James

Donald Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump have been ordered to testify in a New York state civil investigation of their business affairs.

The state attorney general, Letitia James, said: “A court has once again ruled in our favor and ordered Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump to appear before my office to testify under oath.”

“Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.”

James is a Democrat. Trump, a Republican, has claimed James’s investigation of suspected tax-related offences at the Trump Organization is politically motivated and a “witch-hunt”.

James is African American. The former president has claimed she is racist.

Trump did not immediately comment on Thursday.

Eric Trump, the former president’s second son, testified in the investigation in October 2020, while his father was in the White House.

The other three Trumps have fought subpoenas for testimony, part of a refusal to cooperate that led to an accumulating fine for contempt. A New York state judge capped the sum at $110,000. It was paid.

The investigation is one of a number of legal threats to the former president but as a civil matter it could result only in financial penalties.

Other investigations, including into Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn election results in Georgia and regarding the deadly Capitol attack of January 6, could result in criminal charges.

In a January court filing, James said it was suspected that misleading financial statements were filed about properties including 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, Trump’s penthouse apartment in Trump Tower and golf courses in New York and Scotland.

In March 2016, the Guardian reported on tax affairs at Trump National Golf Club in Ossining, New York. Its headline: “How Trump’s $50m golf club became $1.4m when it came time to pay tax.”

On Thursday, in its order denying the Trumps’ appeal, the New York appellate division, first judicial department said: “In connection with the civil investigation into whether respondents have committed persistent fraud in their financial practices and disclosures, supreme court properly rejected appellants’ arguments that the subpoenas issued by [James] should be quashed”.

Rejecting arguments pursued by Trump lawyers, the order said the existence of a criminal investigation into Trump’s business affairs – out of New York City, an effort which has recently lost steam – did not preclude testimony in the civil case.

It also said James’s “political campaign and other public statements” about the Trumps “do not support the claim that [James] initiated, or is using, the subpoenas in this civil investigation to obtain testimony solely for use in a criminal proceeding or in a manner that would otherwise improperly undermine appellants’ privilege against self-incrimination”.

James properly initiated her investigation in March 2019, the order said, after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, alleged in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization “had issued fraudulent financial statements”.

Earlier this week, James said she had subpoenaed Trump’s longtime assistant, Rhona Graff, and would question her under oath next week.

In the New York criminal investigation, Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime finance chief, and the Trump Organization have both been charged with tax fraud. Both pleaded not guilty.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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