Former President Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., were ordered by a New York state court to comply with a subpoena issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is undertaking a civil investigation into his business practices, the Associated Press reports. Trump, who has derided those who invoke the Fifth Amendment, may soon be forced to do the same thing if an appeal of Judge Arthur Engoron's order fails. The civil investigation's focus is on "fraudulent or misleading" valuations of Trump's properties that could have been used to receive loans and tax breaks. The Manhattan district attorney's office is pursuing a separate criminal probe, alleging that Trump undertook a "sweeping and audacious" tax fraud scheme. Any testimony obtained by James in the civil probe could also be used in the criminal case.
If Trump takes the fifth in the civil proceeding, his silence may be used by the jury to draw conclusions, unlike a criminal proceeding. A choice to plead the Fifth potentially places him at risk of greater civil liability, and his acquiescence could lead to criminal liability. Trump's attorneys claim that James's tactics are merely a ruse to gather evidence for criminal proceedings. They asked Engoron to delay any testimony in the civil proceeding until the conclusion of criminal investigation, but the judge refused. If the decision is allowed to stand by a higher court, Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right as to each question, not to the body of questions as a whole. Trump has routinely been deposed on his assessments of his own wealth in his career as a real estate developer. He has routinely defended his penchant for optimistic outlooks.