Eric Trump Must Give NY Deposition 09/24 06:10
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump's son Eric has until Oct. 7 to speak
to New York investigators probing his family's business practices, a judge
ruled Wednesday, rejecting his lawyers' contention that his "extreme travel
schedule" on the campaign trail warranted a delay until after the November
State Judge Arthur Engoron said Eric Trump, an executive at the family's
Trump Organization, had no legal basis to postpone a subpoena seeking his
deposition testimony under oath, concluding that neither the probe nor the
court were "bound by the timelines of the national election."
New York Attorney General Letitia James went to court to enforce the
subpoena after Eric Trump's lawyers abruptly canceled a July interview with
investigators looking into whether the Trump Organization lied about the value
of its assets in order to get loans or tax benefits. The investigation is
civil, not criminal, in nature and investigators have yet to determine whether
any law was broken.
James, a Democrat, said Wednesday's ruling "makes clear that no one is above
the law, not even an organization or an individual with the name Trump."
A message seeking comment was left with Eric Trump's lawyer, Alan Futerfas.
In a court filing last week, Eric Trump's lawyers said he was willing to
comply with the subpoena, but could do so only after the Nov. 3 election. In
addition to scheduling conflicts related to his father's reelection campaign,
they said they wanted "to avoid the use of his deposition attendance for
Futerfas told Engoron they were "happy for him to sit down and be deposed"
but needed more time to review with him thousands of pages of documents sought
by James' office. Any deposition would happen out of public view and would
likely remain confidential because of the ongoing investigation.
"As the world knows, there's an election going on in about four weeks in
this country, maybe five weeks," Futerfas told Engoron. "Eric Trump is a vital
and integral part of that, and he's traveling just about seven days a week."
Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer for the attorney general's office, countered
that Eric Trump's lawyers were seeking a delay "simply on the grounds of
personal inconvenience to the witness" rather than any legal grounds. He argued
that courts have found a compliance deadline of just five days is reasonable.
Eric Trump's lawyers had proposed four dates for him to testify, the
earliest being Nov. 19. They argued that would've been just after James' office
finished interviewing other witnesses in the investigation. Eric Trump switched
lawyers in mid-July, Futerfas said, contributing to the need for a delay.
Eric Trump did not participate in Wednesday's hearing, which was held via
Skype. Eric, the third of Trump's five children, was scheduled to appear
Wednesday at a campaign event in Glendale, Arizona, called "Evangelicals for
Trump: Praise, Prayer, and Patriotism."
James sought judicial intervention to compel Eric Trump and other business
associates to testify and turn over documents as part of an investigation into
whether the family's company, the Trump Organization, lied about the value of
assets including a suburban New York City estate.
James launched the investigation last year after President Trump's longtime
personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that the president had repeatedly
inflated the value of his assets to obtain more favorable terms for loans and
James' investigators are looking at how the Trump Organization and its
agents assessed the value of Seven Springs, a 212-acre (86-hectare) estate
north of Manhattan that President Trump purchased in 1995 with the intention of
turning it into a golf club.
After that project failed to progress, the elder Trump granted an easement
over 158 acres (60 hectares) to a conservation land trust in 2016 to qualify
for an income tax deduction. James' office said a professional appraisal at the
time determined Seven Springs was worth $56.5 million prior to the donation and
that the land being conserved in exchange for the tax deduction was worth $21.1
million, it said.
Cohen told Congress that when Trump was trying to buy the NFL's Buffalo
Bills in 2014, he provided financial statements to Deutsche Bank saying Seven
Springs was worth $291 million as of 2012.
The attorney general's office is also looking at a conservation easement
donated over part of the Trump National Golf Club property near Los Angeles in
exchange for a tax deduction in 2014, and the handling of tax issues related to
more than $100 million of debt from the Trump International Hotel and Tower
Chicago that was forgiven between 2010 and 2012.
Investigators said they have not been able to confirm whether any of that
forgiven debt was recognized as taxable income, according to the court filings.
President Trump last year dismissed various probes into his pre-White House
dealings, accusing James and New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of
"harassing all of my New York businesses in search of anything at all they can
find to make me look as bad as possible."