Judge Rules Against Trump In Tax Evasion Case

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New York Judge Arthur Engoron has held Donald Trump in contempt of court and hit him with $10,000 daily fines set to continue as long as his side’s non-compliance with a subpoena from New York state Attorney General Letitia James also continues. James issued that subpoena amid her wide-ranging investigation into the Trump family business; the investigation has hinged on the Trump company’s apparent arbitrary adjustments to valuations of its assets, with those different valuations meant to secure various financial benefits, like favorable loan terms. Higher numbers would have been set to make the company artificially look better off. Although she’s yet to bring a lawsuit over the misconduct allegations, James already stated that evidence shows “that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading financial statements to obtain economic benefit.”

James touted Engoron’s conclusions. As the state official put it:

‘In a major victory, a court has ruled in our favor to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court. Donald Trump must pay $10,000 per day for every day that he continues to defy the court’s order to turn over documents to my office. Today, justice prevailed. Our investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings will continue undeterred because no one is above the law.’

Specifically, James’s team is pursuing items including three of Trump’s mobile devices, including one company-issued phone, and a variety of specific file storage locations associated with the Trump Organization. According to CBS, Engoron himself remarked as follows in delivering his conclusions: “Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously, I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 a day.” Trump’s side has claimed that he doesn’t have the materials James is after, but appropriate documentation of the search for the documents that investigators are seeking has apparently not been provided — calling into question, of course, how seriously that Trump’s side even took the search. Trump attorney Alina Habba said she spoke with Trump about the issue at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but Engoron wasn’t exactly reassured by that claim. “I feel like there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room, and that is, why don’t we have an affidavit from [Trump]?.. There is a difference between saying something and saying something under oath,” the judge remarked.

Engoron also questioned the lack of documentation associated with the document search itself. “Let’s say you’re going to say, ‘I searched the files outside his office.’ I have to have an affidavit that says ‘I searched the files outside his office,'” as the judge put it. In other words, it sounds like the former president’s side was basically flouting the fundamental legal standards associated with claims they were making. James’s investigation is civil in nature, meaning it’s set up to lead to something like a lawsuit rather than criminal charges in the event of findings of misconduct. It appears as though that hypothetical lawsuit could lead to consequences like financial penalties for the Trump company, should James successfully prove her claims.