This is a new setback for the former president and Republican businessman, who casts doubt on his intention to seek his party’s nomination again for the 2024 presidential election.
Donald Trump, 75, can however still challenge the judge’s decision and could, in any case, choose not to answer questions from Letitia James, whose investigation he describes as
political witch hunt.
After a videoconference hearing on Thursday, Judge Arthur Engoron denied the Trump camp’s motion to quash the request for testimony made by Democratic prosecutor Letitia James.
As a result, the judge ordered the 45th President of the United States to
come and testify within 21 days of this decision. An order which also applies to his two children, also in the crosshairs of Letitia James, and to a request to provide accounting documents for the investigation.
justice prevailedimmediately welcomed the prosecutor in a press release.
No one will be allowed to stand in the way of justice, no matter how powerful. No one is above the lawadded Letitia James, who had withdrawn at the end of 2021 from the race for the Democratic nomination for the election of the governor of the state of New York in order to concentrate on her judicial duties.
According to the former president’s lawyer, Thursday’s decision
confirms what we have already known for some time: Donald Trump cannot benefit from a fair decision in New York State.
The court clearly had a preconceived idea and had no desire to engage in an unbiased debate on this critically important issue.Alina Habba said in a statement sent to AFP.
Already charged with tax evasion
The civil investigation was accelerated in January when Letitia James announced that she had gathered
significant evidence that suggests that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued many assetsin order to obtain economic benefits.
These proceedings are taking place alongside a separate, criminal this time investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, in which the Trump Organization and its loyal chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been charged with tax evasion. They pleaded not guilty and the trial is due to open in mid-2022.
For her part, Letitia James had asked to hear Donald Trump and her two children at the beginning of December. On January 18, she had substantiated her suspicions in a court document of more than 100 pages. She suspects the Trump Organization of having
fraudulently overestimating the value of certain properties when applying for loans from banks and undervaluing those same properties with the taxman in order to pay less tax.
According to her, Donald Trump had
decision-making authority over a wide range of practices at the Trump Organization, including misrepresentations to third parties, including financial institutions and the US tax authorities (IRS).
Dropped by his accounting firm
To drive the point home, Letitia James presented a document this week in which Donald Trump’s historic accounting firm, the Mazars group, claimed that its financial statements provided for a decade were not reliable. Mazars also informed the Trump Organization that he would no longer work for the group.
The Trump family had already been accusing prosecutor James of motives for months
policies, an argument that did not convince Judge Engoron. Refrain from conducting investigations or asking Donald Trump to testify
would have been a flagrant breach of duty from the prosecutor, he wrote Thursday, also sweeping away any argument on a
personal animosity by Letitia James.
Donald Trump’s lawyers also stressed during the hearing the risk for their client to testify in this civil investigation, while a criminal investigation is open in parallel, and accused the prosecutors of working hand in hand to feed their files.