Judge: Eric Trump must give NY deposition before election
A judge in Manhattan has set a date next month for Trump Organization Vice President Eric Trump to answer questions under oath about financial transactions related to his family's real estate business.
State Judge Arthur Engoron ruled the Trump Organization must also turn over all financial documents related to several of the president's properties, including Seven Springs Estates in Bedford.
The state has been investigating President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization since last year after his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress the organization was inflating some of its property values for better loans and insurance while lowering others to reduce property taxes.
The organization's vice president, and President Donald Trump's son, Eric Trump, fought to delay turning over documents or testifying, arguing he is campaigning for his father's reelection.
Judge Engoron said Eric Trump had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the court were “bound by the timelines of the national election.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James went to court to enforce the subpoena after Eric Trump’s lawyers abruptly canceled a July interview with investigators looking into whether the Trump Organization lied about the value of its assets in order to get loans or tax benefits. The investigation is civil, not criminal, in nature and investigators have yet to determine whether any law was broken.
James, a Democrat, said Wednesday’s ruling “makes clear that no one is above the law, not even an organization or an individual with the name Trump.”
A message seeking comment was left with Eric Trump’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas.
In a court filing last week, Eric Trump’s lawyers said he was willing to comply with the subpoena, but could do so only after the Nov. 3 election. In addition to scheduling conflicts related to his father’s reelection campaign, they said they wanted “to avoid the use of his deposition attendance for political purposes.”
Futerfas told Engoron they were “happy for him to sit down and be deposed,” but needed more time to review with him thousands of pages of documents sought by James’ office. Any deposition would happen out of public view and would likely remain confidential because of the ongoing investigation.
“As the world knows, there’s an election going on in about four weeks in this country, maybe five weeks,” Futerfas told Engoron. “Eric Trump is a vital and integral part of that, and he’s traveling just about seven days a week.”
Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office, countered that Eric Trump’s lawyers were seeking a delay “simply on the grounds of personal inconvenience to the witness” rather than any legal grounds. He argued that courts have found a compliance deadline of just five days is reasonable.
Eric Trump’s lawyers had proposed four dates for him to testify, the earliest being Nov. 19. They argued that would’ve been just after James’ office finished interviewing other witnesses in the investigation. Eric Trump switched lawyers in mid-July, Futerfas said, contributing to the need for a delay.
Eric Trump did not participate in Wednesday’s hearing, which was held via Skype. Eric, the third of Trump’s five children, was scheduled to appear Wednesday at a campaign event in Glendale, Arizona, called “Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Prayer, and Patriotism.”
James sought judicial intervention to compel Eric Trump and other business associates to testify and turn over documents as part of an investigation into whether the family’s company lied about the value of assets including a suburban New York City estate.
Eric Trump will now have to testify under oath before the New York Attorney General's office by Oct. 7 at the latest.
AP wires were used in this report