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A federal judge on Friday rejected a lawsuit filed by attorneys on behalf of former President Donald Trump seeking to end New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil probe into the Trump Organization’s business practices.
The ruling was significant because it is Trump’s second court loss in as many days.
“Trump sued James’ office in December 2021, arguing that her multi-year investigation is politically motivated and has violated his constitutional rights,” Axios reported, adding that while criminal charges cannot be filed in civil cases, the AG’s office could still file a lawsuit seeking damages if wronging is suspected.
The suit cited several instances where James pledged to investigate Trump and his businesses as part of her successful campaign for the AG’s job in 2018, but U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes, a Barack Obama appointee, disagreed.
When she ran for office in 2018, James vowed to launch wide-ranging investigations into Trump, his family, and his businesses.
“We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” James told NBC News in December 2018.
“We want to investigate anyone in his orbit who has, in fact, violated the law,” said James, who was endorsed by then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On Thursday, a state appeals court ruled that Trump must answer questions under oath in a New York civil investigation into his business practices.
A four-judge panel in the appellate division upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling enforcing subpoenas for Trump and his two eldest children to give deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ probe.
Trump appealed the February decision, arguing the ruling violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” the four-judge panel wrote, citing the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“The civil investigation was initiated in March 2019 after testimony before Congress by Michael Cohen, … in which Cohen alleged that respondent The Trump Organization, Inc. had issued fraudulent financial statements,” the panel added.
“This sequence of events suggests that the investigation was lawfully initiated at its outset and well-founded, apart from any parallel criminal investigation undertaken by the District Attorney,” they added.
NEW: Court rules that Trump, Ivanka, and Don Jr. must testify under oath in New York's investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings https://t.co/8K3AgpLFoV
— Axios (@axios) May 26, 2022
James lauded the ruling, which came just two weeks after the appellate panel heard oral arguments in the case. She tweeted that her investigation “will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.”
“Once again, the courts have ruled that Donald Trump must comply with our lawful investigation into his financial dealings,” James said in a written statement. “We will continue to follow the facts of this case and ensure that no one can evade the law.”
Trump has strongly denied all of the allegations, referring to James’ probes as politically motivated witch hunts.
The former president has faced other investigations that originated in his home state and city, but so far, they have not resulted in any charges.
Earlier, for instance, former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, thought that Trump could be guilty of manipulating the values of his properties in order to gain tax advantages and favorable loan rates. The grand jury was convened in November as part of that probe.
His investigation continued through the end of Vance’s term with no charges brought against Trump. The case then fell to Alvin Bragg, Vance’s successor, who was left to decide whether to finish presenting evidence to the grand jury and request a decision on the allegations.
He decided to pause the process, however, a decision that led to the resignations of some prosecutors in his office.