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Eric Trump Ordered to Be Deposed in NY AG's Investigation of Trump Organization's Finances

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Eric Trump Ordered to Be Deposed in NY AG's Investigation of Trump Organization's Finances

2020-09-24 16:39:20

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Eric Trump (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

As much as Donald Trump wants to involve Hunter Biden, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son, in legal matters, that same action can be applied to the president. In fact, it applies even more so, as Trump and his two oldest sons are actually in business together.

In the hotly contested issue of the finances of Trump and the Trump Organization, now being run by the Trump brothers, a New York state judge ordered Eric Trump to be deposed no later than October 7 in New York Attorney General Letitia James's probe.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron issued his ruling after nearly two hours of listening to arguments in a lawsuit filed by state investigators working on the civil probe.

Along with running their dad's company, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. also have roles in his reelection campaign. An attorney for the younger brother said in court on Wednesday that his client travels nearly seven days a week for campaign-related matters.

"This court finds that application unpersuasive," ruled Engoron in reference to Eric Trump's need to delay the deposition until mid-November. "Neither petitioner nor this court is bound by timeliness of the national election."

He also ordered the Trump Organization and connected business entities that were withholding documents and claiming attorney-client privilege to hand the documents over to the attorney general.

James filed the lawsuit last month after attorneys in her office said they ran into a roadblock with Trump Organization attorneys and other potential witnesses.

The attorney general's office said the Trump Organization misled lenders and deceived tax authorities.  James's office began investigating last year after Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney, gave Congress copies of financial statements dating back to between 2011 and 2013.

Cohen is serving time for campaign finance violations committed while hiding Trump's alleged affairs, as well as other financial crimes, and recently released a tell-all book of his time with the president. He testified to Congress that the statements he submitted show how his client inflated the value of his assets for loan applications and insurance purposes. To reduce taxes, his properties were undervalued.

James's investigation is focused on multiple Trump properties. This includes 212 acres in Westchester County, the site of a failed golf course project.

Officials are looking at potential abuse of the conservation easement program. This program allows private property owners to obtain conservation-site status if they promise to limit development on protected land. Conservation easements are sometimes viewed as a tax loophole.

Attorneys for the Trump family and Trump Organization cooperated with the investigation early on. They handed documents over and made witnesses available for interviews. The lawsuit claims that later they began holding back,

Eric Tru,p initially agreed to an interview, only to cancel two days before his appointment, according to the state attorney general's lawsuit. A letter from his attorney said, "We cannot allow the requested interview to go forward," according to investigators. Trump attorneys cited "rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution" when refusing to reschedule.

Attorney Matthew Colangelo from the attorney general's office made the argument at the virtual hearing that there was more than enough evidence of potential wrongdoing to use the lawsuit as a basis for the Trump side to cooperate. Yet, company attorneys played down the issues and noted that business was taking place when the Trump Organization officials spoke to property appraisers and when other discussions under review took place as well.

James said in a Wednesday statement that her team would be pushing for the records and testimony the judge ordered. Her office 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."

She also insisted that Eric Trump "will no longer be able to delay his interview and will be sitting down with investigators in my office."

James believes Trump's team has been trying to "dictate how or when our investigation will proceed or set the parameters of a lawful investigation," She promised in 2018, when she was elected, to hold Trump and his business accountable.

Eric Trump slammed James in a tweet on Wednesday. Her "targeting of my family violates every ethical rule she was elected to protect," he wrote, attaching clips from her campaign promises.

"Last month alone, there were over 240 shootings in NYC, yet the NYAG's sole focus is an anti-Trump fishing expedition that she promised during her campaign," he continued. "New York is so lost." 

In addition to this civil lawsuit, Trump and his company are also involved in a criminal investigation brought by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. He's looking into Cohen's claims of paying off the women who allegedly had affairs with Trump as well as other allegations of wrongdoing at the Trump Organization.

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