Donald Trump and two of his adult children have agreed to be questioned under oath in mid-July by lawyers from the New York state attorney general’s office, unless the state’s highest court intervenes.
The agreement, filed Wednesday in New York state Supreme Court, says that Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have agreed to appear for testimony that will begin July 15 and end the following week.
The questioning will come as the state attorney general, Letitia James, concludes the final phase of her investigation into Donald Trump and the business practices of his company, the Trump Organization. The agreement follows a number of legal setbacks for the former president, whose lawyers had fought the attorney general for months, hoping to avoid questioning.
Wednesday’s agreement was filed two weeks after a state appeals court ruled to allow the questioning. The court rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyers that James’ civil investigation was politically motivated and that she should be barred from questioning Trump under oath while he was also under criminal investigation for some of the same business practices.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said soon after that ruling she would appeal the matter to the Court of Appeals. It is unclear whether the court will agree to hear the case, but if it does, the three Trump family members may still have a hope of avoiding the interviews.
Another of Trump’s adult children, Eric Trump, was questioned under oath in October 2020 and invoked his right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions. While Donald Trump and the two children could decline to answer questions for the same reason, doing so could harm them in James’ inquiry. In a criminal case, jurors cannot infer anything from a defendant’s refusal to testify, but that does not hold true for civil cases.
James’ investigation began in March 2019 and has focused on whether Trump misstated the value of his assets to gain financial advantage with lenders and tax authorities.
Because the inquiry is civil, James cannot file criminal charges but can file a lawsuit. A lawyer from her office signaled in April such a filing could occur in the near future.
Lawyers from James’ office are also involved in a criminal investigation being led by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. That inquiry had been heading toward an indictment before Bragg and some of his top aides developed concerns about the strength of the case.
In the civil investigation, Trump was held in contempt of court in April by a state court judge, Arthur Engoron, and ordered to pay $10,000 a day until his lawyers filed a number of documents that were sought by the attorney general. The following month, Engoron lifted the contempt fine, but set conditions and said he would reinstate that penalty if Trump did not comply.
After a hearing involving lawyers for Trump and James on Wednesday, the judge said that he would leave the order in place – with no fine attached – and gave Trump’s lawyers a deadline of next Friday to file information about the Trump Organization’s document retention policies.
In a recent live appearance on the podcast “Pod Save America,” James said that Trump “got caught” using “funny numbers in his financial documents.” She also said that she would “allow him to exhaust his appeal.”
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and referred to James’ investigation as a witch hunt and to the attorney general as a radical left “racist.”