Donald Trump and children subpoenaed by attorney general
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US Attorney General Letitia James’s bid to enforce subpoenas to compel testimony by the three Trumps has proven successful, with a New York judge ruling in favour of the request on Thursday given the “copious evidence of possible financial fraud”.
The family had asked the judge to block the subpoenas but Justice Arthur Engoron of the state court in Manhattan said Ms James, a Democrat, had “the clear right” to question them.
He directed the three family members to submit to questioning within 21 days.
Last month, Ms James said her nearly three-year investigation into the Trump Organization had uncovered significant evidence of possible fraud, accusing the family business of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to obtain financial benefits.
She said in a statement: “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 decision for the three to comply with the subpoenas followed a two-hour hearing in which the lawyers of Ivanka Trump, Doland Trump and Donal Trump Jr claimed the attorney general was circumventing their clients’ constitutional rights by seeking testimony she could use against them in a parallel criminal probe.
Donald Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba accused Ms James of “selective prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct that this country has never seen”.
Suggesting the attorney general has a concrete interest against the former president, Ms Habba claimed: “If he was not who he is, she would not be doing this.
“This court can help stop this circus.”
This echoes Donald Trump’s narrative that the nearly three-year probe is a political “witch hunt”.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer from Ms James’ office, rejected that depiction, claiming: “They haven’t shown anything here that says it’s unfair.”
The attorney general is examining whether the Trumps violated a New York law targeting “persistent fraud or illegality,” allowing her to seek damages or a court-ordered halt to any wrongdoing.
Neither of the three has been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
However, while Ms James’s civil probe means she cannot file criminal charges, she can sue the Trumps and the company.
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In filings this week, Ms James described what she called misleading statements about the values of the “Trump Brand” and of six Trump properties.
These are golf clubs in Aberdeen, Scotland, and suburban Westchester County near New York City, the Seven Springs Estate in Westchester, buildings on Wall Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan, and Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower.
In January, Ms Habba dubbed the accusations against the Trump Organization “merely the latest in a long line of unfounded attacks against my client and an obvious attempt to distract the public from her own inappropriate conduct”.
Donald Trump’s lawyer added: “Letitia, you are not above the law.”
The Trump Organization, calling the accusations “baseless”, responded by accusing Ms James of twisting the facts and misleading the public because she faces “the stark reality that she has no case”.
The civil probe partially overlaps a criminal probe by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which Ms James joined in May, into the Trump Organization’s practices.
Lawyers for the family have pointed at this to argue if Donald Trump testifies in the civil probe, anything he says could be used against him in the criminal investigation.
In a statement on Tuesday, the former president heavily criticised what he called a “sham investigation of a great company that has done a spectacular job for New York and beyond”.
Washington DC’s attorney general is parallelly suing the Trump Organization and Trump’s inaugural committee over the alleged misuse of $1.1 million of charitable funds, for which a September 26 trial date was set on Thursday.
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