Former president Donald Trump was ordered by a federal judge on Thursday to testify in New York State attorney general Letitia James’s civil inquiry into alleged tax fraud at the Trump Organization.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, must comply with subpoenas issued by James in December and sit for depositions within 21 days. In his decision, Engoron wrote that if the “State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals … she has the clear right to do so.”
James’s civil inquiry is focused on whether the business engaged in bank and tax fraud by inflating the value of its assets when applying for loans and deflating their value come tax time. The decision is all but guaranteed to face an appeal from Trump’s legal team. (Trump also faces a separate criminal inquiry, now led by new Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.)
Though the former president has a tendency to incriminate himself, past depositions have shown Trump to be a little less rambunctious delivering testimony than he is on the campaign trail or in social media. Most likely, Trump will often invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, as is his constitutional right. (Already, Eric Trump and Allen Weisselberg — who was charged last year in an alleged tax-fraud scheme to pay Trump Organization executives off the books — have testified in the AG’s inquiry and invoked the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times while doing so.) Any information that Trump provides in the civil probe can be used against him in the parallel criminal investigation. Trump’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, argued unsuccessfully that he should be provided immunity in the civil deposition because of this bind.
It hasn’t been the best week for the former president when it comes to financial matters. On Monday, it emerged that Trump’s longtime accountant, Mazars, fired him and the Trump Organization as clients, writing that any financial statements they touched from 2011 to 2020 “should no longer be relied upon.”