Just days before former President Donald Trump was set to testify in the New York State civil investigation into his business dealings, Trump’s legal team appealed a judge’s ruling forcing Trump to do so. That ruling, filed by Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron last month, set a March 10 deadline for Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. to testify.
While the appeal was filed Monday, Trump’s legal team indicated it would be doing so late last week. In the appeal letter, lawyers for Trump argued forcing the Trumps to testify in the civil investigation violates their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
“The target of a hybrid civil/criminal investigation cannot use the Fifth Amendment as both a sword and a shield; a shield against questions and a sword against the investigation itself,” lawyers wrote in the appeal letter. “When they are deposed, [Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.] will have the right to refuse to answer any questions that they claim might incriminate them, and that refusal may not be commented on or used against them in any way.”
Both the civil and criminal investigations are looking into both the former president and The Trump Organization. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the civil investigation, has said she has uncovered evidence the organization used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
With Trump appealing Engoron’s ruling, both civil and criminal investigations appear to be in a holding pattern for now. Last week, two prosecutors in charge of the criminal investigation abruptly resigned. On Friday, James released a statement saying she is in this one for the long haul despite her former gubernatorial ambitions.
“Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump were ordered by the court to comply with our lawful investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings. While they have the right to seek a delay, they cannot deter us from following the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” James said. “Make no mistake: My office will continue to pursue this case without fear or favor because no one is above the law.”