A New York judge on Monday found former US President Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to produce subpoenaed documents in the state attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices and ruled ordered Trump to be fined US$10,000 a day until he complies.
Trump lost a bid to quash a subpoena from state Attorney General Letitia James, then failed to produce all documents by the court’s March 3 deadline, then extended to March 31 at the request of his lawyers.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled a finding of contempt was appropriate due to what the judge called ‘repeated failures’ in turning over the documents and it was unclear Trump had conducted a full search relevant 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 as part of the investigation. Trump’s other son, Eric, sat for a deposition in late 2021.
Estimates, taxation under surveillance
James is investigating whether the Trump Organization, the former president’s New York-based family business, misrepresented the values of his real estate properties to obtain cheap loans and tax deductions. The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was criminally charged in 2021 with tax evasion by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
James said his investigation had found “significant evidence” to suggest that for more than a decade the company’s financial statements “relyed on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits. “.
The attorney general 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 financial dealings of the Trump Organization will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.”
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump and the company, told the hearing that James’ investigation was a “fishing expedition” and that the Trump Organization was “on schedule” with its production of documents.
“It’s a political crusade,” Habba said. “The Attorney General’s investigation has apparently become aimless.”
Trump, a Republican, denies any wrongdoing and 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 that authorities accused him of abusing.
Trump continues to enjoy strong support within the Republican Party ahead of a potential bid to win back the presidency, though he also faces investigations by the January 6 committee of Congress examining statements and actions by Trump and the White House ahead of the 2021 Capitol riot, as well as a soon-to-be-appointed special grand jury to examine attempts to pressure Georgia officials over the 2020 election results that saw President Joe Biden carry this state.
Trump’s Save America leadership political action committee has raised some $112.5 million in cash since November 2020, according to federal documents obtained by Reuters, and it has endorsed more than 100 candidates who are running in Congress and in the States this year.