Eric Trump Ordered to Sit for Deposition Before Election
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s son Eric can’t delay until after the November election a deposition sought by New York authorities in a civil fraud investigation of the family business, a judge ruled.
Eric Trump must testify under oath by Oct. 7, despite his busy schedule during his father’s campaign, New York state court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled Wednesday in Manhattan, handing a significant procedural victory to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who’s leading the probe.
James is not “bound by timelines of the national election,” the judge said.
The investigation is examining whether the Manhattan-based Trump Organization falsely reported the value of various assets to secure loans and get tax benefits as alleged last year by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who has fallen out with his ex-boss.
Trump’s company, which has been cooperating with James and turned over thousands of documents, has said the investigation was weaponized for political purposes as the election neared. The probe, however, isn’t likely to be finished or result in any public findings before the election.
The attorney general has been seeking sworn testimony from Eric Trump for months as part of her probe of the company, where he’s an executive vice president. The probe had been kept under wraps by James until she took legal action in August to enforce seven subpoenas that the Trump Organization refused to comply with. While Trump last week agreed to be deposed, he said he couldn’t do so until after the election. The AG balked at the claim.
“Justice and the rule of law prevailed today,” James, a Democrat, said in a statement. “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.”
The focus of the probe are transactions involving a Trump skyscraper in Manhattan called 40 Wall Street, as well as the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago and a Los Angeles golf club. James has said an obscure property called Seven Springs on 212 acres outside New York City is also being investigated.
The probe adds to several legal concerns already facing the president, including an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney that seeks his tax returns and other financial documents as part of a separate fraud investigation.
Engoron on Wednesday also rejected the Trump Organization’s argument that many of the additional documents sought by the state are protected by privilege because various attorneys were involved in the transactions and tax decisions at the center of the probe. The judge ordered many of those documents to be handed over by Oct. 2.
The judge noted that it seemed reasonable for the state to probe whether Trump’s company paid the proper taxes after about $100 million of debt was forgiven related to Trump’s Chicago skyscraper around 2010, calling the question the “800-pound gorilla in the room.”
The company’s attorney, Lawrence Rosen, said an accountant would soon be testifying under oath for the attorney general and confirm that the forgiven amount was declared as income. The judge didn’t accept that.
“Is the attorney general obligated to take somebody’s word for it when we have the documents themselves existing” and in Trump Organization’s control, the judge asked.
Alan Garten, a lawyer for the president’s company, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, has already been deposed, though his questioning in July was cut short when he was asked whether he’d testified before a federal grand jury. When Eric Trump backed out of his deposition, James has said, his lawyers implied it was because Weisselberg’s questioning went beyond the scope of a civil probe.
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