NEW YORK, Feb 18 – A New York judge on Thursday ruled that former US President Donald Trump and his two grown children must answer questions under oath within 21 days of a state attorney’s investigation into their family company.
Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York Regional Court in Manhattan has ruled in favor of Attorney General Letitia James in directing Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump to testify.
Engoron said James “has a clear right” to issue a summons and to question Trump after finding “ample evidence of possible financial fraud.”
Failure to issue the summons “could be an obvious violation of the law,” wrote Engoron.
“Today, justice exists,” James said in a statement. “No one will be allowed to stand in the way of justice, no matter how powerful. No one is above the law.”
The decision follows a two-hour trial in which Trump’s lawyers accused James of violating their clients’ constitutional rights by demanding evidence he could use against them in a similar criminal investigation.
Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, has accused James of “choosing to persecute and misbehave in a world he has never seen,” citing what he calls “insulting” Democratic Republican ambassador to Trump, a Republican.
“If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be doing this,” Habba said. “This court can help stop this circus.”
Trump in a statement released later on Thursday called the allegations false and accused James of a political plot against him and his family.
“It’s a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in history – and remember, I can’t get a fair hearing in New York because of the hatred I have for judges and magistrates. It’s impossible!” Trump said in a statement.
Last month, James said his nearly three-year investigation into the Trump Organization found significant evidence of possible fraud.
Explaining what he called “misleading statements about Trump’s landmark values and six properties, he said the company was likely to increase house prices to get bank loans and reduce lower taxes.
Trump has not been charged with any crime.
Engoron has already rejected Trump’s request to drop James’ case while a criminal case, led by Manhattan regional attorney Alvin Bragg, is pending. James joined the investigation last May.
A criminal investigation, launched by Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance, led last July to tax fraud cases against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
‘YOU MISS THE FULL MARK’
Engoron said the argument that James was trying to evade the judiciary’s main protections, which would provide for Trump’s insecurity, by removing public subpoenas “does not completely miss the mark.”
He said the Trumps could not answer questions, noting that Donald Trump’s other eldest son Eric Trump exercised his legal right to commit more than 500 times when the attorney general’s office questioned him in 2020.
The judge also dismissed Trump’s claim that James’ public statements were sometimes harsher about Donald Trump’s investigation, which included a promise “we will definitely sue him,” shows “inadequacy” of his investigation.
Engoron said the spark of the investigation was not James’ dislike of the president, but congressional evidence from Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen that the Trumps “were cooking up books.”
The judge also noted Trump’s record of investigations by the attorney general’s office, including “important residences” with James’ predecessors regarding the university name and the base of assistance.
Trump is accused of trying to stop James’ investigation. He has not said he will run in the 2024 presidential election.
Engoron issued the ruling after Trump’s long-term company Mazars USA decided last week to sever ties with him and the Trump Organization, saying it would no longer be able to stand after ten years of financial statements even though it found no difference.
The Trump Organization said the Mazars’ findings made James and Bragg’s investigation “successful.”
Attorney General of Washington D.C. has filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump Organization and the Trump executive committee over alleged misappropriation of $ 1.1 million. The trial date for September 26 was set for Thursday.