New York, Feb 17 (EFE).- Former President Donald Trump will have to testify under oath within the framework of an investigation under way by New York authorities into his firm’s business activities, a judge ruled on Thursday.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in favor of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who had demanded that Trump, as well as his children Ivanka and Donald Jr., testify under oath as part of the investigation into the Trump Organization for alleged fraud.
The judge rejected a motion presented by the Trump family to avoid testifying and said that the Attorney General’s Office has a “clear right” to question them about the significant amount of evidence collected that appears to show potential fraud.
The probe is trying to determine if Trump’s company inflated the value of his assets to be able to obtain bank loans and, simultaneously, reduced their value with the aim of paying less in taxes.
Although this is a civil procedure, the Manhattan district attorney’s office also has opened a parallel criminal investigation into the matter.
The Trumps had tried to block the request issued by James arguing that the AG, a Democrat, has political motivations and is seeking to use the case to influence the criminal investigation.
Engoron, however, rejected those arguments after a hearing held on Thursday and ruled that Trump must hand over the documents being requested by James within 14 days and that both he and his two children must testify within the next 21 days.
The ruling still could be appealed by the Trumps’ defense team and does not necessarily mean that the trio would provide the details that the AG’s office is seeking, since they could invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, just as Eric Trump, another of the magnate’s children, did when he was questioned in October 2020.
Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka have all been very involved in their father’s company, the Trump Organization, which each one of them joined shortly after finishing their university studies.
When Trump became president in January 2017, he delegated control of the company to Don Jr. and Eric, as well as to the firm’s financial director, Allen Weisselberg.
Last December, Trump and his firm filed a lawsuit against James in response to her investigation alleging that she was using the probe as “a political weapon.”
James officially requested in January that that lawsuit be thrown out and said that the move by Trump was a “baseless attack” by him to delay the investigation into his business activities.