U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Forbes deputy wealth editor ordered to testify in Trump investigation

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 21, 2021
New York, New York

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
September 21, 2021

Chase Peterson-Withorn, the deputy wealth editor for Forbes, was subpoenaed by the Manhattan District Attorney on Sept. 21, 2021, to testify in New York City before a grand jury in an ongoing investigation of former President Donald Trump’s finances.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. first launched the criminal investigation into Trump’s businesses in 2019, after Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress that Trump manipulated the value of his wealth when seeking loans and preparing taxes.

Forbes Chief Content Officer and Editor, Randall Lane, was also subpoenaed and said in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that they had fought the order for three months until a judge ultimately ordered them to testify on Dec. 16, 2021.

“We think this is wrong, we didn’t want to testify, we don’t want to testify,” Lane said. “Think about the precedent that’s set here — how do you have an autonomous press if you’re supposed to testify about the people you cover regularly?”

After testifying, Lane wrote about the process in an article for Forbes. Peterson-Withorn, who declined to comment further but confirmed Lane’s reporting, testified after Lane for about five minutes. Prosecutors focused their questions on Peterson-Withorn’s 2017 reporting on the value of Trump’s New York City apartment.

“We revealed no new information during the testimony. If we were sitting on anything newsworthy, we would have already shared that with our readers,” Lane wrote in the article.

According to Lane, the questions asked by prosecutors were limited in scope and mostly to “yes or no” answers, but the “creeping use of subpoenas to undermine a free press” sets a dangerous precedent, he said.

“Reporters and prosecutors both serve the public, but in different ways. The latter shouldn’t trample on the efficacy of the former.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].