Judge Denies Trump Contempt Of Court Appeal, Orders Daily Fine

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Despite objections from the former president, New York Judge Arthur Engoron has refused to set aside his recent findings that held former President Donald Trump in contempt and imposed $10,000 daily fines for non-compliance with document demands from New York state Attorney General Letitia James (D). On Wednesday, Trump’s side submitted legal filings asserting they were in appropriate compliance with James’s civil investigation into the Trump company that led to document subpoenas, but Engoron wasn’t convinced. In the judge’s description, statements from Trump’s team about their supposedly sufficiently expansive process of searching for items that James is after lacked necessary details. As the judge put it:

‘This Court finds that Mr. Trump has not yet purged his contempt… The affirmations submitted by counsel for Mr. Trump are insufficient in that they fail to specify who searched for each respective request, at what time, where, and using what search protocols; it is not sufficient simply to attach a list of people who participated in the searches. Moreover, the affirmations submitted by counsel also fail to affirm that the subject electronic devices were imaged and searched and with what search terms.’

James’s civil investigation that led to these demands to Trump for documents has hinged on the Trump company’s apparent deceptive adjustments to valuations of its assets. For example, James’s office has asserted that the Trump Organization employed overstated valuations for conservation easements at company properties in California and New York, which allowed the company to obtain unearned tax benefits. James has also gone after a large real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, that prepared appraisals behind those easement valuations. Recently, Engoron ordered Cushman to comply with document demands made by James related to the company’s work on three Trump-owned properties, including the Seven Springs Estate, Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, and 40 Wall Street. The deceptively valued easements were associated with the Seven Springs Estate and the golf club.

As for the demands underlying the contempt finding, Trump’s side has claimed — as recent details suggest — that the former president doesn’t have materials James is seeking. Engoron also singled out an apparently faulty personal affidavit from Trump regarding the document search. “Mr. Trump’s personal affidavit is completely devoid of any useful detail… Notably, it fails to state where he kept his files, how his files were stored in the regular course of business, who had access to such files, what if any, the retention policy was for such files, and, importantly, where he believes such files are currently located. It similarly fails to state if he turned over his personal electronic devices for imaging and searching,” as the judge explained things. Because James’s investigation is civil rather than criminal in nature, it’s not set up to lead to any criminal charges in the event of any findings of misconduct. However, the investigation is poised to lead to a lawsuit against the Trump company, and that hypothetical lawsuit could lead to presumably substantial financial penalties for the Trump Organization if James successfully proves her claims.