How Trump testifying about his business hurts him


NEW YORK – A judge’s refusal Thursday to issue a subpoena seeking testimony from former President Donald Trump in an investigation into his business dealings won’t be the final word on the matter.

Trump’s lawyers can appeal Judge Arthur Engoron’s decision, a process that could take some time.

If the decision holds, however, Trump and two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, are expected to meet with investigators from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James and answer (or refuse to answer) their questions.

Here’s a look at what it’s all about and why it’s likely to be a headache for the Trumps no matter what happens next:

WHAT IS THIS SURVEY ABOUT?

James, a Democrat, plans to sue Trump or his company, the Trump Organization, for how they have valued his assets over the years. Essentially, his investigators argue that Trump and company had a “fraudulent or misleading” pattern of saying properties they owned, such as golf courses and skyscrapers, were worth more when they wanted better deals. loans, and less when they wanted tax relief.

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Earlier this month, Trump’s longtime accounting firm severed ties with him, saying the decade-long financial statements they had prepared for his company, using information provided by Trump and his staff , were no longer reliable.

Trump has bristled at allegations that he lied about his wealth. He and his attorneys have pointed out that asset valuations can be subjective. They repeatedly tore up the investigation as purely political and even sued James in an attempt to stop his investigation.

IS THERE ALSO A CRIMINAL PROBE?

Yes. The Manhattan District Attorney is also investigating. A grand jury heard testimony and reviewed documents covering much of the same subject matter as James’ civil investigation.

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WHAT IS A DEPOSITION?

A deposition is like an interview, usually held in a law office or conference room, except that witnesses must be sworn and may face penalties if they commit perjury. They are usually registered.

Depositions, often portrayed in legal dramas as pitting one side against the other around a table, are most common in civil litigation and are often used to elicit information or get answers from someone on the case.

SHOULD TRUMP ANSWER THE QUESTIONS?

Since anything a person says in a civil deposition could also be used against them in a criminal investigation, witnesses are free to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at any time.

So if he chooses, Trump could simply refuse to answer many questions.

This protection is not absolute. A person’s fear of being sued must be reasonable. And the fear must apply to the question that was asked. For example, Trump probably couldn’t refuse to answer a question like “How old are you?” »

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Refusing to answer the toughest questions could hurt Trump in any civil suit. A jury is allowed to find out if a person refused to answer and is also allowed to infer that if the person had answered the question it might make them look bad.

HAS TRUMP BEEN DEPOSED BEFORE?

Yes, he has been involved in many lawsuits during his business career and is experienced in depositions. He sat for one last October in a lawsuit brought by protesters who claim they were brutalized by Trump security personnel.

Some Trump Organization leaders have already given depositions as part of James’ investigation, including the former president’s son, Eric Trump, and the company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have also served as executives in the family business.

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IS IT LIKE TESTING BEFORE A GRAND JURY?

There are some similarities, but in New York, anyone who testifies before a grand jury automatically gets immunity from prosecution for any crime they talk about.

For this reason, New York prosecutors are unlikely to call Trump before a grand jury.

Trump’s attorneys have complained that by seeking to testify in civil court, James is trying to circumvent those protections for potential defendants.

WHY IS IT BAD FOR TRUMP?

Experts say a fraud case against Trump is not a slam dunk. For Trump, however, nothing good can come from testimony, even if he did nothing wrong.

At best, it generates embarrassing headlines about a former president having to answer questions about his business practices.

He could be even more embarrassed if he refused to answer questions on the grounds that it might incriminate him. Some people will assume – perhaps incorrectly – that this means he is guilty.

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It is also unlikely to alleviate the growing backsliding within a Republican party he has led almost alone for years.

And the worst case scenario is that he reveals wrongdoing in the deposition that becomes the basis of a trial or a criminal charge. He could also be prosecuted for perjury if he lies.

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