A judge in New York charged Thursday that Donald Trump and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. can be displaced as part of a civil fraud investigation supervised by the New York Attorney General’s office.
Judge Arthur Engoron wrote that Trumps’ fear that their statements might end up being used in a similar criminal investigation did not safeguard them from summonses.
“This statement completely misses the mark. Neither the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office nor the Attorney General has subpoenaed the Trumps to appear before a grand jury,” Engoron mentioned in his ruling.
The Trumps were challenging warrants sent in December seeking ” documents and testimony in connection with an inquiry into the valuation of properties controlled or owned by the Trump Organization or Donald J. Trump any matter which the Attorney General deems relevant,” as per the court filing.
Engoron wrote Thursday that Donald Trump has 14 days to fulfill document petitions and all three Trumps must arrive for a testimony within 21 days. During the hearing, a lawyer for Donald Trump predicted that they would request such a ruling.
New York Attorney General, Letitia James applauded the ruling in a statement sent to media platforms, saying, “Today, justice prevailed.”
At Thursday’s hearing, lawyer, Alan Futerfas, who represents Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. blamed James for blurring the lines into her inquiry and a criminal investigation being run by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
He reported that at least two of the attorney general’s employees are laboring with the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal grand jury running a related investigation, a point that was central to Trumps’ arguments against giving testimonies in this case.
In New York, great jury testimony comes with automatic transactional immunity — meaning an individual can’t be charged for what they tell a great jury — but civil testimonies don’t. The Trump lawyers argued that the civil testimonies are an attempt to get around grand jury protections.
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Judge Engeron frequently pressed the Trump lawyers on why their clients couldn’t invoke the Fifth Amendment during confirmations, as Eric Trump did frequently during testimony for this investigation in 2020.
The Trump lawyers replied that prosecutors would be worthy to “draw an adverse inference” if the Trumps choose the Fifth.
The judge takes back on this continually, asking at one point, “Is there any suggestion or hint that the attorney general is going to haul your clients in front of a grand jury?”
Alan Futerfas replied, “To date, there is not.” Alan Futerfas later said that there’s no reason to believe either Donald Trump Jr. or Ivanka Trump are targets of the criminal investigation, which has already led to charges against the Trump Organization and its Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer.
Ronald Fischetti, a lawyer for the former president, said during the hearing that he is trying to safeguard his client from any potential illegal activity, which he said would be unsupported.
I’m trying to safeguard my client from being charged, on charges that are not there at all,” Ronald Fischetti said.
Ronald Fischetti said the fact that Donald Trump is a former president makes this a “unique case.” Ronald Fischetti said if Donald Trump were to sit for a civil testimony, and summon the Fifth Amendment, “it will be on every front page of the newspaper in the world.”
“How can I perhaps pick a jury in that case?” Ronald Fischetti asked
Donald Trump’s civil lawyer Alina Habba asked the judge to delay the attorney general’s investigation altogether until the Manhattan D.A.’s investigation is done. Both Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and James are Democrats. Alina Habba suggested that her Republican client’s political leanings mean that he has “protected class” status, implying legal protection against discrimination based on nationality, disability race, religion, or other factors.
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The judge seemed unconvinced by that argument.