Judge orders Eric Trump to testify before election in New York attorney general probe of President Trump’s company
Eric Trump speaks in Portsmouth, NH on Sept. 17, 2020. Eric Trump, son of President Donald Trump, makes a stop in Portsmouth during one stop on his ‘Make America Great Again!’ tour.
Erin Clark | Boston Globe | Getty Images
Eric Trump must testify in response to a subpoena from the New York Attorney General’s office before the presidential election as part of an investigation into whether President Donald Trump‘s company improperly valued real estate assets in official statements, a judge ordered Wednesday.
Eric Trump, who is the president’s middle son and a top executive in the Trump Organization, must testify no later than Oct. 7, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled after a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court, where Trump’s lawyers had asked to delay his deposition until after the election.
Engoron noted that, “Mr. Trump cites no authority in support of his request, and at any event, neither petitioner nor this court is bound by timelines of the national election.”
Attorney General Letitia James’s office called the ruling a “major victory.”
“The court’s order today makes clear that no one is above the law, not even an organization or an individual with the name Trump,” James said in a prepared statement.
The attorney general is investigating whether the New York-based Trump Organization improperly inflated the values of several real estate assets on annual financial statements that were used to obtain loans, as well as to get economic and tax benefits related to those properties.
James last month had filed an action with the court seeking Eric Trump’s compliance with the subpoena after she said that he had reneged on an agreement to testify this summer.
James also sought to force compliance with subpoenas seeking documentation and testimony related to several Trump properties. Her office noted Wednesday that the judge’s order will give her access to documents that have been “withheld by the Trump Organization.”
Lawyers for Eric Trump later said that he was willing to be deposed as part of James’s probe of the Trump Organization, but only after the Nov. 3 contest between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Attorneys for the AG’s office argued to the judge earlier Wednesday that Eric Trump has no right to delay a subpoena for his testimony as part of an ongoing investigation.
“We simply can’t delay compliance for another two months,” one of those attorneys, Matthew Colangelo, said during a video conference before Engoron.
“Mr. [Eric] Trump is asking for a further two-month delay … to the middle of November in response to a subpoena that was served in may and where the parties agreed in early june on a date for his attendance,” Colangelo said.
“Mr. Trump shouldn’t be able to profit from his own dilatory conduct here.”
President Donald Trump answers questions from the news media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 11, 2019.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Engoron later noted, “Mr. Trump now waives any objection to his deposition, but seeks to delay his deposition until after Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.“
“This court finds that application unpersuasive,” Engoron said. “Accordingly, this court hereby orders Eric Trump to appear for his deposition no later than Oct. 7, 2020.”
James, in her statement after the ruling, said, “Justice and the rule of law prevailed today.”
“We will immediately move to ensure that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization comply with the court’s order and submit financial records related to our investigation.”
‘Further, Eric Trump will no longer be able to delay his interview and will be sitting down with investigators in my office no later than October 7. To be clear, no entity or individual is allowed to dictate how or when our investigation will proceed or set the parameters of a lawful investigation.”
The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the judge’s order.
James launched the investigation into the Trump Organization last year after President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, during testimony to Congress the the president’s annual financial statements inflated the values of Trump’s assets to obtain favorable terms for loans and insurance coverage.
The assets that James is eyeing include Seven Springs Estate, a 212-acre property in Westchester County, New York.
Court filings note that valuations of Seven Springs were used to claim an apparent tax deduction of more than $21 million, based on the donation of a conservation easement on the property.
The Financial Times last year noted that Trump purchased Seven Springs for $7.5 million in 1996, but valued it at more than $290 million in 2012. Forbes magazine in 2014 said that the entire property was worth less than $19.5 million, citing recent property sales and local realtors and assessors.
James’ office also says it is investigating a Trump building at 40 Wall St. in Manhattan, the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, and the Trump National Golf Club – Los Angeles.
The civil investigation by James is separate from a criminal investigation being conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
President Trump is fighting a last-ditch legal effort to block a grand jury subpoena issued as part of Vance’s probe, which seeks eight years of Trump’s income tax returns and other financial records from the president’s accountants.
Vance’s office earlier this week said in a federal appeals court filing that the subpoena is more than justified by news reports that have raised the prospect that Trump and his company misstated the values of their business properties at different times.
The filings said that if that is the case, a number of crimes, including ones related to taxes, could have been committed.