Former president Donald Trump has against appealed a judge’s decision requiring he answer questions under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices.
Lawyers for Mr Trump and his two eldest children filed papers on Monday with the appellate division of the state’s trial court, seeking to overturn Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s February 17 ruling.
They argue ordering the Trumps to testify violates their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation.
In an eight-page ruling, Judge Engoron set a March 10 deadline for Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr, to sit for depositions.
Lawyers for the Trumps asked the appellate court for a stay to spare them from questioning while it considers the matter.
The court did not set a date for arguments. It typically issues decisions several months after that, but could be inclined to rule on an expedited basis given the urgency of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation and the Trumps’ desire to swiftly overturn Judge Engoron’s ruling.
A message seeking comment was left with Ms James’ office. In a statement on Friday, as lawyers for the Trumps were preparing their appeal, the attorney general signalled she was ready for a long fight to get them to testify.
“Donald J Trump, Donald Trump, Jr, and Ivanka Trump were ordered by the court to comply with our lawful investigation into Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation’s financial dealings,” Ms James said in the statement.
“While they have the right to seek a delay, they cannot deter us from following the facts and the law wherever they may lead. Make no mistake: My office will continue to pursue this case without favour because no one is above the law.”
Mr Trump did not immediately comment on the appeal. In a statement following Judge Engoron’s decision, he called the ruling “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in history”.
Ms James, a Democrat, has said her investigation has uncovered evidence Mr Trump’s company, the Trump Organisation, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
In his ruling, Judge Engoron wrote: “A State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so.”
If Judge Engoron’s decision is upheld, it could force Mr Trump into a tough decision about whether to answer questions, or stay silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Anything Mr Trump says in a civil deposition could be used against him in the criminal probe being overseen by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.