NEW YORK — Donald Trump and two of his adult children must testify in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into the former president’s family real estate business, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. had fought a February order by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron requiring they sit for questioning under oath as part of James’ probe of the Trump Organization.
They had argued that James’ investigation was an improper fishing expedition and that she was unfairly in cahoots with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is conducting a parallel criminal investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices.
The Appellate Division First Department wrote in a three-page order that James had good reason to open the probe.
“The investigation was lawfully initiated at its outset and well founded,” the midlevel appeals court wrote. “Appellants have failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from any similarly situated persons.”
Engoron had ruled it would be “a blatant dereliction of duty” for James not to question the family as she investigated whether the Trumps violated the law through alleged serial manipulation of Trump Organization property values to score favorable loans and tax breaks.
In arguments before the appeals court on May 11, Trump family lawyer Alan Futerfas said James was improperly trying to question the Trumps to obtain information for the criminal case.
“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,” James said in a release. “We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law.”
Eric Trump, the only member of the Trump to have been questioned under oath by James’ team, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination around 500 times.
The development is the latest blow for Trump in the probe. Engoron recently held him in civil contempt for blowing deadlines in AG investigation and ordered he pay James $110,000 in fines.
Futerfas said the decision was under review. The Trump family can pursue an appeal to the state’s highest court.