NEW YORK – A New York judge said Wednesday he would lift Donald Trump’s contempt of court order if the former president meets the conditions, including paying the $110,000 in fines he has racked up for his slow response to a subpoena issued by the state attorney general.
Judge Arthur Engoron said he would lift his contempt conviction if Trump submitted additional documents by May 20 detailing efforts to search for subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies.
Engoron found Trump in contempt on April 25 and fined him $10,000 a day for failing to comply with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ subpoena issued under of a lengthy investigation into Trump’s business practices.
James, a Democrat, said her three-year investigation uncovered evidence that the former president’s company had misstated the value of assets such as skyscrapers and golf courses in its financial statements for more of a decade.
Trump denied the allegations, calling James’ investigation “racist” and a “witch hunt.” James is black.
Trump’s attorneys allege James is using his civil investigation to gain access to information that could then be used against the former Republican president in a parallel criminal investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, also a Democrat.
The legal battle between James and Trump was also unfolding before a mid-tier state appeals court on Wednesday, which is hearing arguments in a related subpoena case: Trump’s appeal of the judge’s Feb. 17 ruling. obligating to answer questions under oath as part of the investigation.
Trump wants to avoid having to talk to investigators.
In a statement Wednesday, James praised Engoron’s handling of the contempt allegation.
“For years, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization have tried to thwart our legal investigation, but today’s decision makes it clear that no one can escape responsibility,” James said in a statement. “We will continue to enforce the law and seek answers as part of this investigation.”
A message seeking comment was left for Trump’s attorney.
Engoron ordered Trump to pay $110,000 because that’s the total amount of fines he had incurred through May 6, when Trump’s lawyers submitted 66 pages of court documents detailing efforts by him and his attorneys to locate subpoenaed records.
The judge demanded that a company Trump hired to help with the search, HaystackID, finish going through 17 boxes kept in an offsite storage facility, and that the company release a report on its findings and turn over all relevant documents .
Engoron said he could reinstate the fine, retroactive to May 7, if the conditions he set out are not met. He asked Trump to pay the money directly to James’ office and for the attorney general to hold the money in an escrow account while Trump’s legal team appeals the initial contempt decision.
James asked Engoron to hold Trump in contempt of court after he failed to produce any documents to meet the March 31 deadline to meet the terms of his subpoena. She searched for documents relating to his annual financial statements, his development plans and even his communications with Forbes magazine, where he sought to restore his image as a wealthy businessman.
One of Trump’s attorneys, Alina Habba, said in a May 6 court filing that the former president responded to the subpoena completely and no relevant documents were withheld. She said Trump’s team searched his offices and private quarters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and his residence in Florida for documents, but found nothing relevant that didn’t appear. had not already been produced. His dossier also detailed searches in other locations, including filing cabinets and storage areas at the Trump Organization offices in New York.
In a separate sworn affidavit included in the filing, Trump said there were no relevant documents that had not already been produced.
He added that he owns two cellphones: an iPhone for personal use that he submitted in March to be searched as part of the subpoena and then resubmitted in May; plus a second phone he recently received which is only used to post on Truth Social, the social media network he started after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
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