Judge orders Ivanka Trump to testify in family's civil fraud trial

Ivanka Trump (AP)
Ivanka Trump (AP)

Ivanka Trump must give evidence in the civil fraud case against her father, brothers and family business, a judge has ruled.

Former president Donald Trump, his sons Don Jr and Eric, and executives of the Trump Organisation are accused of fraudulently inflating Mr Trump's net worth between 2014 and 2021 by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Ivanka Trump was dismissed from the case months ago after her lawyers said she should not have to give evidence because she stepped away from her father's business in 2017 and moved out of New York.

But state lawyers argued that as a former Trump Organisation executive vice president, she had relevant information.

Judge Arthur Engoron has sided with the state, citing documents showing that Ms Trump has ownership or management ties to some businesses in New York and still owns Manhattan apartments.

"Ms Trump has clearly availed herself of the privilege of doing business in New York," Judge Engoron said.

He said her testimony would not be scheduled before November 1, to give her lawyers time to appeal.

The civil fraud trial is in its fourth week at a New York state court in Manhattan.

Ms James' lawsuit accuses the former president of overstating his wealth for years on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to help secure loans and deals.

The defendants deny the allegations. Donald Trump, the current Republican 2024 presidential front-runner, has called the trial a politically motivated "sham".

The ex-president and his sons are expected to testify at some point.

On Wednesday Donald Trump stormed out of the courtroom after earlier being fined $10,000 (£8,274) for breaching a gagging order barring him from attacking court staff.

Earlier this week his former lawyer Michael Cohen testified that he manipulated the values of the former president's real estate properties to match "whatever number" Mr Trump said.

"He would say, 'I'm actually not worth $4.5 billion, I'm really worth more like 6 (billion)," Mr Cohen told the court on Tuesday, adding that Trump arrived at the valuations of his assets "arbitrarily."

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in court (REUTERS)
Donald Trump and Michael Cohen in court (REUTERS)

Mr Cohen said he and onetime Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg would mark up line items by hand using red ink in Mr Trump's financial statements after he told them the numbers were too low.

Ivanka Trump's lawyer told the judge on Friday that state lawyers had no legal basis to make her testify.

"At the end of the day, your honour, they just don't have jurisdiction over her," said the attorney, Bennet Moskowitz.

A state appeals court in June dismissed the claims against her as too old.

Ms Trump announced in January 2017, ahead of her father's inauguration, that she was stepping away from her Trump Organisation job. She soon became an unpaid senior adviser in the Trump White House. After her father's term ended, she moved to Florida.

"The idea that somehow Ms Trump is under the control of the Trump Organisation or any of the defendants, her father - anyone who has raised a daughter past the age of 13 knows that they're not under their control," said Christopher Kise, a lawyer for the ex-president.

Mr Kise maintained that state lawyers "just want another free-for-all on another of President Trump's children."

State lawyers, however, argued that Ms Trump was a key participant in some events discussed in the case and remains financially and professionally intertwined with the family business and its leaders.

"She is 100% someone who can come in and testify," said Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney general's office.