NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s lawyers say a New York judge abused his discretion with a decision last month requiring the former president to answer questions under oath in a civil investigation into his business practices.
In papers filed Monday in a state appeals court, Trump’s lawyers said Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron failed to properly weigh constitutional and ethical concerns that they’d raised about New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation.
Lawyers for Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., want the appellate division of the state’s trial court to overturn Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling and invalidate James’ subpoenas seeking their testimony.
They detailed their arguments in a 72-page joint brief Monday, rehashing prior claims that James, a Democrat, had a political vendetta against Trump, a Republican, and that forcing the Trumps to testify would violate their constitutional rights because answers could be used against them in a parallel criminal investigation.
The Trumps’ lawyers contend that Engoron was wrong to limit the scope of a two-hour hearing prior to his ruling and that he didn’t have all of the information necessary to make a proper ruling.
The lawyers said Engoron denied their requests for hearings exploring the nature of coordination between James’ office and the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is running the criminal probe, and whether James was engaging in selective prosecution.
James issued a statement in response to the Trumps’ court filing Monday.
“Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump were ordered by a judge to comply with our investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” James said.
“Despite continuous efforts to impede this investigation, no one can stop our pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they are. We will continue to follow the facts without fear or favor.”
The Trumps and the New York attorney general’s office have agreed to pause enforcement of the subpoenas during the appeals process. Court papers indicate the appellate court will likely hear arguments in May or June.
James has said her investigation has uncovered evidence Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
If Engoron’s ruling is upheld, it could force Trump into a tough decision about whether to answer questions, or stay silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — something he’s criticized others for doing in the past.
Story by Michael R. Sisak.