A New York judge on Monday held former U.S. president Donald Trump in contempt of court for not producing documents subpoenaed in the state attorney general’s civil probe of his business practices and ordered Trump to be fined $10,000 US per day until he complies.
Trump lost a bid to quash a subpoena from state Attorney General Letitia James, then failed to produce all of the documents by a court-ordered March 3 deadline, later extended to March 31 at his lawyers’ request.
Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that a contempt finding was appropriate because of what the judge called “repeated failures” to hand over materials and that it was not clear Trump had conducted a complete search for the responsive documents.
“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt,” the judge said, although Trump himself was not in the courtroom.
Engoron recently ruled that Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, must answer questions under oath in the probe. Trump’s other son, Eric, sat for a deposition in late 2021.
Valuations, taxes under scrutiny
James is investigating whether the Trump Organization, the former president’s New York City-based family company, misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favourable loans and tax deductions. Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was charged criminally in 2021 for tax fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
James has said her probe had found “significant evidence” suggesting that for more than a decade, the company’s financial statements “relied on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits.”
The attorney general has questioned how the Trump Organization valued the Trump brand, as well as properties — including golf clubs in New York and Scotland and Trump’s own penthouse apartment in Midtown Manhattan’s Trump Tower.
“Today, justice prevailed,” James said after Monday’s ruling. “Our investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.”
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump and the company, said at the hearing that James’s investigation was a “fishing expedition” and that the Trump Organization was “right on schedule” with its production of documents.
“This is a political crusade,” Habba said. “The attorney general’s investigation has seemingly become aimless.”
Trump, a Republican, denies wrongdoing and has called the investigation politically motivated. James is a Democrat who previously oversaw a case in which Trump was ordered to pay $2 million and dissolve a charitable foundation authorities accused him of misusing.
Trump continues to enjoy strong support within the Republican Party ahead of a potential bid to regain the presidency, despite also facing investigations by the Jan. 6 committee in Congress looking into Trump and White House statements and actions ahead of the Capitol riot in 2021, as well as a special grand jury what will soon be empanelled to examine attempts to pressure Georgia officials over 2020 election results that saw President Joe Biden carry that state.
Trump’s Save America leadership political action committee has raised some $112.5 million in cash since November 2020, according to federal filings obtained by Reuters, and he’s endorsed more than 100 candidates who are in congressional and state races this year.