Former President Donald Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., were subpoenaed by the New York attorney general’s office on Monday, requesting their testimony in an investigation into the family’s business operations.
In a court filing, Attorney General Letitia James’ office claimed it recently sent subpoenas to the Trumps for testimony and records as part of a years-long civil investigation into “the valuation of assets owned or managed” by Trump and his firm.
The filing, which was made public as James went to court to try to enforce the subpoena, was the first time that investigators publicly revealed that they are also looking for information from Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., two of their father’s trusted allies who have worked as executives in his family’s Trump Organization.
It was reported last month that James’ office had asked Trump to sit for a deposition.
The Trumps’ lawyers filed court papers Monday evening in an attempt to stop the subpoenas, calling them “an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver” and accusing James of attempting to obtain testimony that could be used against the Trumps in a parallel criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
The Trumps’ attorneys stated that James “seeks to sidestep the whole grand jury process” and negate the Trumps’ rights by compelling them to testify without the immunity afforded by state law if they were subpoenaed to appear in front of a grand jury in the criminal investigation.
James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years investigating whether the Trump Organization lied to banks and tax officials about the worth of assets, inflating them to get better loan conditions or undervaluing them to save money on taxes.
“They must follow the same rules as everyone else, regardless of their names.” “We will be seeking the court to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump to testify with our office under oath,” James said in a statement following the Trumps’ bid to dismiss the subpoenas.
The debate over the subpoenas had been going on behind closed doors until Monday, when a judge who had previously handled other subpoena battles related to the Trump probe consented to hear arguments over the new ones. The public court docket was then updated with the court filing from James’ office.
Another Trump son, Trump Organization executive Eric Trump, was forced to testify after his attorneys unexpectedly canceled a scheduled deposition. The judge, Arthur Engoron, had ruled with James on several topics connected to the investigation.
Trump sued James in federal court last month, attempting to put a halt to her probe. In his complaint, Trump alleged that Sessions had violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled endeavor to publicly denigrate Trump and his associates.”
In the past, the Republican ex-president has referred to James’ inquiry as a “witch hunt” that is being conducted in tandem with a criminal investigation being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Despite the fact that James’ civil inquiry is independent from the criminal probe, her office has been active in both, sending a team of lawyers to work with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
After a multiyear battle that went to the United States Supreme Court twice, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was granted access to the longtime real estate mogul’s tax documents last year. In July, he charged the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg with tax fraud.
Vance convened a fresh grand jury to hear evidence in the inquiry before leaving office last week, but he left the decision on additional charges to his successor, Bragg. The incoming district attorney has stated that he will be involved personally in the Trump investigation, while also keeping the two seasoned prosecutors who oversaw the case under Vance.
Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to accusations that he and his firm underpaid taxes on lavish executive fringe perks.
Trump had already been called to appear in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by protestors who claim Trump’s security crew assaulted them during his presidential campaign in 2015. While in office, certain presidents were subjected to subpoenas, such as Richard Nixon in 1974 for his notorious Watergate tapes.
Nonetheless, issuing a civil subpoena for testimony from someone who is simultaneously the focus of a linked criminal inquiry is extremely uncommon.
This is largely due to the fact that a person under criminal investigation may simply use their right to keep quiet under the Fifth Amendment. Trump’s attorneys are unlikely to allow him to be deposed unless they are confident that his evidence will not be used against him in a criminal prosecution.
Both investigations stem from charges made in press stories and by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of falsifying the worth of his assets.
As part of the civil investigation, James’ agency sent subpoenas to local governments for papers relating to the estate, Seven Springs, and a tax advantage Trump obtained for putting land into a conservation trust. Subpoenas for many of the same records were later issued by Vance.
A Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf club in Los Angeles have all been investigated by James’ agency.