Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses Trump's record of scandal.
A state judge has ordered Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump to sit for depositions within three weeks in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing investigation of alleged financial improprieties at the Trump Organization.
In a ruling Thursday, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron roundly rejected bids by the Trumps to dodge giving testimony on grounds of James’ alleged bias and that her office is conducting parallel criminal and civil investigations.
Engoron said all three Trumps have the option of showing up for the depositions and refusing to answer the questions based on their constitutional right not to testify against themselves.
“They have an absolute right to refuse to answer questions that they claim may incriminate them,” the judge wrote in an eight-page order. “Indeed, respondent Eric Trump invoked his right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions during his one-day deposition arising out of the instant proceeding.”
More from the order:
For OAG not to have investigated the original respondents, and not to have subpoenaed the new Trump respondents, would have been a blatant dereliction of duty (and would have broken an oft repeated campaign promise). Indeed, the impetus for the investigation was not personal animus, not racial or ethnic or other discrimination, not campaign promises, but was sworn congressional testimony by former Trump associate Michael Cohen that respondents were "cooking the books."
In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so.
Much as the Trump trio tried, they could not shut down James’s investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices, which could lead to a civil suit by James. Unlike a criminal prosecution, a civil action comes with a lower burden of proof for the government. At the same time, civil lawsuits can drag on – like right into 2024. Barring a stay, Trump and his two children have been ordered to appear at deposition within 21 days.
If they tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, who knows what liability may result? On the other hand, if they invoke their right to remain silent, they will probably be portrayed as criminals.
“You see, the mob takes the fifth,” Trump observed on the campaign trail in 2016. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the fifth amendment?”
Time sure flies. And if the Trump family refuses to appear at deposition or simply stays mum when grilled, they risk being charged with contempt, a distinction presently held by Steve Bannon, Trump’s White House counselor and 2016 campaign guru.