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Trumps struggle to fight New York subpoenas in appeals court

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Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. are appealing their requests to testify to New York Attorney General Letitia James. During closing arguments in Manhattan on Wednesday, four appeals judges appeared skeptical that James’ subpoenas were inappropriate and biased. James seeks testimony from the Three Trumps as she completes her investigation of the Trump Organization. Something is loading.

A lawyer for Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. faced a Manhattan appeals court on Wednesday. bias.

The four-judge panel will decide at a later date whether the three Trumps should testify under oath and in camera in AG Letitia James’ investigation into the family real estate business, the Trump Organization.

In fighting subpoenas in oral argument, Alan S. Futerfas echoed the two arguments he used in state court and an appellate brief.

The first argument is that James’ three-year investigation into the former president’s affairs is a partisan vendetta. James, a Democrat, has publicly criticized the former chairman and GOP kingmaker since his 2018 GA bid, Futerfas argued.

As a second point, Futerfas argued that the Trumps should not be compelled to give evidence in James’ civil investigation into the family business when their testimony could put them at risk in a parallel criminal investigation.

“The attorney general is essentially standing in the place of the district attorney,” Futerfas said, and forcing the Trumps to testify in James’ civil investigation would eviscerate their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But members of New York’s four-judge Premier Department panel repeatedly asked the same question a state judge asked when ordering the Trumps to testify.

If the Trumps are worried about incriminating themselves, why not just comply with James’ subpoena and then plead the fifth, they asked.

“I agree that it is appropriate for the courts to protect against the gutting of privilege against self-incrimination,” Presiding Judge Rolando Acosta told the Trump family attorney.

“But what prevents you from invoking this privilege?” He asked. “Why do we need to intervene in this matter, and interfere with or restrict the broad discretion and authority granted by law to the Attorney General?”

Another appeals panel judge, Judge Peter Moulton, noted that the AG had gathered evidence against the Trumps via its civil investigation since 2019, when Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testified in Congress at the about the alleged financial wrongdoings of his ex-boss.

Trump would inflate the value of his assets by seeking hundreds of millions in bank loans, then deflate the value by seeking a reduction in property taxes, as an example of Cohen James said in the documents his office is suing.

“Mr. Counsel, does it matter that the civil fraud investigation began in 2019, well before the criminal prosecution, and was based on the testimony of Michael Cohen, and gathered lots of evidence since — thousands of pages of documents,” Moulton said. asked.

James did not announce she was weighing criminal charges until May 2021, two years after the civil investigation began.

“There was some momentum before there were criminal charges,” Moulton noted of James’ civil investigation.

“But by the time you get to the issuance of these subpoenas,” Futerfas countered, “Letitia James had announced that she was an integral part of the criminal investigation” of the Manhattan district attorney’s office that led to the Trump organization and its chief financial officer at the time. Alan Weisselberg is charged.

A third judge on the panel, Anil Singh, pushed back against Trump’s attorney’s claim that James is politically biased against Donald Trump.

Futerfas pointed out that James had made “years of statements” against him, calling him an “illegitimate president” and promising to prosecute him since his 2018 campaign for AG.

“And the attorney general asked for political contributions in January 2022, and it’s on file,” he said. “There was an explosion of emails going out saying, ‘Do you like this president? Do you support this president?’ because the attorney general was running for governor for a short time.

“And it was about using political animosity against Mr. Trump,” he said. “While she was an officer of the state!” How could she do this?

“Lawyer, lawyer,” Singh interrupted. “Isn’t there a factual predicate for the investigation, based on Cohen’s testimony?”

“Certainly when Mr. Cohen testified they could have an investigation,” Futerfas replied.

“I have practiced law for 34 years,” he continued. “I have never seen the kinds of statements, in 34 years, made by someone seeking the highest law enforcement position in the state. They are simply untrue. They are unacceptable.”

Any other law enforcement officer who allegedly made the kinds of statements James made against Trump against an investigative target — what he called “fusing political agendas with law enforcement” — would have been forced to recuse himself, Futerfas said.

The last judge to speak, Judge Tanya Kennedy, brought the discussion back to the AG’s right to issue civil subpoenas even when opening a criminal investigation, as argued during the procedure Judith N.Vale, GA appeal lawyer. (Read the AG’s response to the Trump document’s appeal here.)

“They’re allowed to gather evidence, aren’t they?” Kennedy asked.

Kennedy is the same judge who denied Donald Trump’s request last week for an immediate halt to a $10,000 contempt of court fine for failing to comply with the AG’s separate subpoena for his documents, which the former president is also appealing.

“Judge Kennedy,” Futerfas replied. “They’ve said before and they’ve never denied it, any information they get under the guise of the civil subpoena would go straight to the DA’s office. They’ve never denied it.”

And what’s wrong with that, the presiding judge asked.

“Isn’t that in the normal course of business?” He asked. “Usually they start with an investigation into a particular behavior … then they do a civil investigation. If that civil investigation creates a criminal danger, then it creates a criminal danger.”

It was a busy day in court for Trump and his company.

Earlier in the day, a lower court judge ordered Trump to deliver a check for $110,000 to James’ office to end a costly contempt of court order that imposed $10,000 a day in penalties for the former president’s failure to comply with James’ subpoenas. for his papers.

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