By Kara Scannell and Paula Reid, CNN
Lawyers for former President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are appealing a New York state judge’s ruling earlier this month ordering them to sit for depositions in connection with the New York Attorney General’s civil investigation into the Trump Organization.
The notice of appeal, filed Monday, is the first step in the process. In the coming days, the Trumps are expected to file a motion seeking a stay, or extension of time to comply with depositions, to allow them time to argue the merits of the case.
Judge Arthur Engoron ordered the Trumps to appear for deposition by March 10.
Trump’s legal team is facing legal issues on multiple fronts as the former president considers a possible run for the White House in 2024. The call in the case comes as a separate investigation by the Manhattan prosecutor makes against headwinds. Two senior prosecutors resigned last week amid discussions in this office over the strength of this criminal case.
Trump and his team believe it would be difficult to run for president while they face criminal charges, according to a source familiar with their thinking. With the possibility of the charges fading in New York, in particular, Trump’s legal team plans to continue the civil investigation of New York Attorney General Letitia James for as long as possible, the source said.
While they don’t believe a civil case is a barrier to his candidacy, the source said they are considering options to argue the Fifth Amendment if Trump and his children are required to appear for depositions.
James’ office joined that of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is leading the criminal investigation, last year. James is also conducting a parallel civil investigation.
The Trumps argue that if James wants their testimony, she should bring them before a state grand jury investigating the Trump Organization. Trump’s lawyers argued she was trying to shut down the grand jury process, where witnesses are granted transactional immunity for their testimony in New York.
The state judge, ruling earlier this month, rejected the Trumps’ arguments, noting that they could invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during their depositions and decline to answer questions, such as did it Eric Trump in 2020.
But in a civil case, the jury can draw an “adverse inference” and hold it against people who don’t answer the questions.
Donald Trump’s attorney, Ronald Fischetti, and Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Ivanka and Trump Jr., declined to say whether the Trumps would answer questions or invoke the Fifth.
At a recent court hearing in the civil case, Fischetti said if the former president refused to answer questions, it would be on the front pages of newspapers, making it harder for them to find an unbiased jury. , if it came to that. .
Fischetti claimed victory in the criminal investigation after both prosecutors resigned. “We are extremely happy,” he said at the time, predicting the case would soon be dropped. “Without a doubt, I think it will happen.”
Bragg’s office, however, says his criminal investigation is continuing. Susan Hoffinger, a former prosecutor and experienced defense attorney who had recently joined his office as an executive, was appointed to lead the investigation.
Trump is also facing a criminal investigation into possible election interference by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia, which is examining actions Trump or his allies may have taken to undo President Joe Biden’s victory in that state.
The New York prosecutor’s and attorney general’s investigations focus on the accuracy of financial statements Trump provided to lenders, insurers and others.
In January, James said his office had found “significant” evidence “indicating that the Trump Organization had used fraudulent or misleading asset appraisals to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance and tax deductions”. On the financial statements, she alleged, there were numerous “misleading statements and omissions”.
The burden of proof in civil investigations is lower than in criminal investigations. To file a criminal case, prosecutors would need evidence of Trump’s state of mind and whether he intended to mislead or defraud anyone when he made statements embellishing value of its properties.
Bragg’s office has interviewed bankers, Trump Organization employees and Trump’s longtime accountant, but he has no key insiders cooperating with the investigation.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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