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Trump appeals ruling ordering depositions in New York probe

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have appealed a ruling that he and his two eldest children must testify in the investigation by the New York state attorney general into the family’s business practices.

Trump’s attorneys filed the notice of appeal on Monday, nearly two weeks after a New York judge ruled on Feb 17 that the three Trumps must sit for depositions within 21 days.

The Trump family had unsuccessfully tried to quash the subpoena for testimony, arguing that it was improper for the attorney general’s office to issue subpoenas for its civil investigation while the Manhattan district attorney’s office is still conducting its separate criminal probe.

Judge Arthur Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court rejected that argument.

“This argument completely misses the mark,” Engoron wrote in his decision. “Neither OAG nor the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has subpoenaed the New Trump Respondents to appear before a grand jury, The New Trump Respondents’ argument overlooks the salient fact that they have an absolute right to refuse to answer questions that they claim may incriminate them.”

The judge noted that when Trump’s son Eric sat for a deposition two years ago as part of the same investigation, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 500 times.

Trump also argued that the investigation into his business practices is overtly political, and cited statements New York Attorney General Letitia James made during and after her campaign for attorney general about her intentions to investigate the former president and his family’s real estate firm.

The judge found those statements had no bearing on the legitimacy of the subpoenas.

“Attorney General James, just like respondent Donald J. Trump, was not deprived of her First Amendment rights to free speech when she was a politician running for a public office with investigatory powers,” the judge’s decision said.

“The abhorrent statements made by Letitia leave no doubt that this is yet another politically motivated witch-hunt,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said in response to the ruling. “The court clearly had its mind made up and had no interest in engaging in impartial discourse on this critically important issue.”

Trump, in a statement following the ruling, blasted the investigation.

“She is doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships, and with the political process,” he said of James. “It is 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 of me by Judges and the judiciary. It is not possible!”

“Today, justice prevailed,” said James following the ruling. “Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have been ordered by the court to comply with our lawful investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings. No one will be permitted to stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they are. No one is above the law.”

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