(FiveNation.com)- A state appeals court decided Thursday that former President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath in a civil probe of his business activities in New York state.
A four-judge majority in the state’s appeal division affirmed Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 judgment requiring Trump and his two eldest children to give deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation.
Trump had filed an appeal, hoping to get the decision overturned. His attorneys claimed that forcing Trump to testify would violate their constitutional rights since their responses may be utilized in a criminal investigation.
Attorney General James claims Trump’s corporation lied to banks and tax authorities.
Trump might still challenge the decision of the Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court.
James, a Democrat, has stated that her inquiry has found evidence that Trump’s firm, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or deceptive” appraisals of assets like his golf courses and towers to get loans and tax benefits.
The decision on Thursday might force Trump to choose between answering questions or remaining silent, claiming his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Anything Trump says in a civil deposition might be used against him in the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s criminal investigation.
Trump’s attorneys claimed at a hearing before Engoron’s Feb. 17 order that having him appear for a civil deposition is an illegal attempt to get around a state rule prohibiting prosecutors from inviting someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without providing them with immunity.
A lawyer with the attorney general’s office told Engoron that having civil and criminal investigations going on at the same time wasn’t unusual, and Engoron turned down a request from the Trump’s lawyers to put the civil probe on hold until the criminal case was resolved.
Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to put a stop to her inquiry.
Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood to get her to resign.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office accused the Trump Organization and its longstanding finance head, Allen Weisselberg, of tax fraud last summer, based on James’ civil probe information. Weisselberg allegedly received more than $1.7 million in off-the-books income. Weisselberg and his corporation have entered a not guilty plea.