Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron pushed back after former President Donald Trump’s lawyer said his client was part of a ‘protected class’ and was discriminated against by the prosecutor General of New York, Letitia James.
James and his team are seeking to force Trump to comply with a subpoena to answer questions under oath as part of a New York investigation into his business practices. Engoron heard arguments in the case on Thursday and issued a ruling later in the day, ruling that Trump and two of his children were not part of a ‘protected class’ and should comply with subpoenas and testify. as part of the Attorney General’s investigation.
Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, suggested the entire investigation was discriminatory and due to the former president’s policies. Habba argued that James, a Democrat, was aiming to prevent Trump from running for president and winning again in 2024. She described him as part of a “protected class”.
Engoron, a Democrat, dismissed Habba’s assessment of Trump.
“The traditional protected classes are race, religion, etc. said Engoron. “Donald Trump doesn’t fit that model. He’s not discriminated against based on race, is he? Or religion, is he? He’s not a protected class. If Mrs. James has anything against him, OK, that’s not in my understanding of unlawful discrimination, he’s just a villain she should prosecute as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.
Trump previously said in a statement this week that James’ investigation of him and his business was a “political and racist attack.” He recently said Washington Examiner that James’ investigation of his business was due to his political ambitions. She “campaigned on a whole issue of ‘I’ll get Trump. I will get Trump. And that was it,” he told the conservative publication.
Engoron then ruled Thursday afternoon that Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., must comply with James’ subpoenas and answer investigators’ questions under oath.
“Ultimately, a state attorney general begins to investigate a business entity, uncovers extensive evidence of possible financial fraud, and wishes to interview, under oath, several of the entity’s executives, including its namesake. She clearly has the right to do so,” the state judge wrote in the ruling.
Trump is expected to appeal the decision. If the ruling is ultimately upheld, Trump could still claim his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, he has already criticized others for using this right. Using the Fifth Amendment could also backfire on you.
“If Trump takes the fifth, it can be used against him in the civil case being worked on by the New York Attorney General. If Trump doesn’t take the fifth, the Manhattan prosecutor can use his words against him” , said former federal prosecutor Renato. Mariotti said in a tweet on Thursday. “He’s between a rock and a hard place.”
Newsweek contacted Trump’s press office for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.