(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump must testify under oath in New York’s “well founded” probe of his company, a state appeals court ruled.
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The appellate panel in Manhattan on Thursday upheld a lower-court ruling from February, rejecting Trump’s argument that New York Attorney General Letitia James opened the investigation because she’s politically biased.
James, who is probing potentially fraudulent asset valuations at the Manhattan-based Trump Organization, only started the probe after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified to Congress in 2019 that the company “had issued fraudulent financial statements,” the appeals court said.
“This sequence of events suggests that the investigation was lawfully initiated at its outset and well founded,” the court held.
The ruling, the latest of several recent setbacks for Trump in the case, could still be appealed to New York’s highest court in Albany. The decision applies to the depositions of Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who were originally supposed to be questioned in June.
Trump was held in contempt of court in April for failing to comply with James’s subpoena for his records and paid a $110,000 fine.
“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,” James said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law.”
The appellate panel also rejected Trump’s argument that testifying in the state’s civil probe would put him and his children at risk in a related criminal investigation into the company by the Manhattan district attorney.
“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the court held.
The Trumps’ lawyer, Alina Habba, declined to comment.
The appeals court didn’t buy the Trumps’ claim that James, who promised to investigate Trump while she was campaigning, would abuse civil subpoenas to gather evidence for an ongoing criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
“The political campaign and other public statements made” by James about the Trumps “do not support the claim” that she “is using the subpoenas in this civil investigation to obtain testimony solely for use in a criminal proceeding,” the appeals court said.
(Updates with detail from the ruling)
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