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New York attorney general seeks depositions from Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr.

President-elect Donald Trump at a news conference in New York on Jan. 11, 2017, flanked by, from left, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
President-elect Donald Trump at a news conference in New York on Jan. 11, 2017, flanked by, from left, Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James has subpoenaed testimony from Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., two adult children of former president Donald Trump who have served as executives at his company, as part of James’s civil investigation into the Trump Organization and its business practices.

The subpoenas were disclosed Monday in an unsealed court filing that also detailed a schedule for challenges to the requests that the siblings and the former president sit for depositions and provide records.

Later in the day, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. filed a motion to quash the subpoenas — or to delay them until a parallel criminal probe is completed.

In the motion, attorneys for the Trump family argue that the New York criminal and civil investigations are connected and that James is trying to “circumvent the entire grand jury process” and “nullify [their] constitutional and statutory rights” by demanding their testimony on business matters that are also being examined in the criminal case.

As potential targets of the criminal probe, the Trumps have a right not to incriminate themselves to law enforcement, the motion says, noting that if they were to be called to the grand jury as witnesses, they would get automatic immunity from prosecution under New York law.

James responded by issuing a statement vowing to compel the trio to testify. “For more than two years, members of the Trump family and the Trump Organization have continually sought to delay and impede our investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization,” the statement said. “These delay tactics will not stop us from following the facts or the law.”

Alina Habba, an attorney for the former president and the Trump Organization, called James’s actions “a threat to our democracy.” She said the attorney general “has weaponized her office through this political witch hunt.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Jan. 3 subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. as part of an ongoing investigation into the Trump Organization. (Video: Reuters)

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James’s office launched its civil investigation into the Trump Organization and its officers in March 2019, focusing on whether financial fraud was committed through property valuation practices. Investigators from the office are still requesting records and other evidence.

The Washington Post reported in December that James had asked the former president to give testimony on Jan. 7 at her agency’s New York offices, a move Trump called politically motivated. His attorney, Ronald Fischetti, said at the time that Trump had firm grounds to challenge the subpoena, alleging that James’s office was “working hand-in-hand” with the Manhattan district attorney in its long-running criminal probe of the Trump Organization.

That probe has led to the indictments of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, and the company itself, in connection with an alleged tax fraud conspiracy. Alvin Bragg (D), who was sworn in as Manhattan district attorney at the start of the new year, has taken over the criminal investigation from his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D).

“This is an opportunity for them to get Donald Trump’s testimony under oath and then turn it over to the district attorney’s office,” Fischetti said last month.

While Weisselberg’s indictment focused on the Trump Organization’s compensation practices, the criminal investigation has since shifted its focus to the company’s asset valuation practices. A grand jury was convened this fall to begin to hear evidence on financial matters.

It is unclear if additional indictments will be filed.

While James’s office is a partner in the criminal case, her civil investigation is separate — albeit with an overlapping focus. Her team has long been interested in the Trump Organization’s alleged practice of undervaluing properties for tax benefits but inflating property values to try to obtain more favorable loan interest and insurance rates.

James’s office can sue the Trump Organization if it finds evidence of alleged wrongdoing.

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The former president two weeks ago filed a federal lawsuit against James in Upstate New York, alleging that her inquiry amounted to harassment and violated his constitutional rights. That suit could further delay the progress of the attorney general’s investigation.

The filing made public Monday shows that James has asked a New York Supreme Court civil judge to enforce the subpoenas to the Trumps. It is not the first time the office has asked Justice Arthur Engoron to intercede. Engoron previously ordered Eric Trump, another son of the former president who has been heavily involved in the family business, to sit for a deposition. He also played referee when parties including the Trump Organization resisted handing over certain documents.

According to a 2020 filing from James’s office, Eric Trump initially agreed to an interview, then canceled two days before it. He then declined to set another date, citing “rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution,” before sitting for a deposition in October 2020.

Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump all took senior roles in their father’s company early in their careers, working in adjacent offices in Trump Tower as each shepherded different projects and aspects of the business.

When Trump entered the White House, the three children took different paths, with Ivanka Trump leaving the business to join him as a senior adviser. Don Jr. and Eric remained in the private sector, with Don Jr. focused more on politics and Eric handling many aspects of the Trump Organization business.

O’Connell reported from Washington. David A. Fahrenthold contributed to this report.