Judge Trashes Trump For Absurd Claims In N.Y. Investigation

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New York Judge Arthur Engoron made clear during recent court proceedings that he wasn’t interested in blindly going along with arguments from former President Donald Trump about his supposed compliance with document demands from New York state Attorney General Letitia James (D). Trump’s non-compliance recently led Engoron to impose $10,000 daily fines and hold the former president in contempt, and Trump’s side has argued in response that he doesn’t actually have items that James is after — which Engoron evidently found difficult to believe. “He’s Donald Trump, the most famous real estate developer in the world, arguably… I am surprised he doesn’t seem to have any documents; they’re all with the organization,” Engoron remarked. An affidavit signed by Trump was submitted claiming that any further docs would be with the Trump company.

Engoron has opted, over objections from Trump and his legal representation, to leave his previous contempt findings and fines in place. Engoron wrote, in apparent reference to that affidavit from Trump, that the former president’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.” In other words: it sounds as though the former president’s team blatantly failed to provide basic information. Among other examples of the documents at issue are Post-its, which Trump apparently frequently used. “He’s famous for Post-its… When he wants something done, he puts a Post-it on something. I don’t think we’ve received any Post-its,” the judge remarked.

James’s civil investigation hinges on the Trump company’s apparent deceptive valuations of its assets. Among other examples, the company apparently received unearned tax benefits because of higher-than-accurate valuations of conservation easements associated with Trump properties in California and New York — and Engoron also recently ordered Cushman & Wakefield, a large real estate firm that competed appraisals behind those easement valuations, to comply with document demands from James. Because the probe is civil rather than criminal in nature, it’s not set up to lead to criminal charges in the event of conclusive findings of misconduct, although it could lead to a lawsuit potentially culminating in substantial financial penalties for the Trump company if James proves any claims.

As reported on this site, a so-called tolling agreement between authorities and the Trump Organization that paused the clocks on statutes of limitations for relevant criminal acts will soon expire, and Kevin Wallace, who’s a senior enforcement counsel on James’s team, recently remarked: “Given the upcoming end of the tolling agreement we will likely need to bring some kind of enforcement action in the near future to preserve our rights.” That prospective enforcement action would presumably be a lawsuit singling out the Trump company for having engaged in deception when preparing valuations of its assets, although Wallace said that James’s team would be meeting with Trump company attorneys before filing.