Judge Rules Against Trump Attempt To Bypass Daily Contempt Fines

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New York appellate Judge Tanya Kennedy has now denied another attempt by former President Donald Trump to get $10,000 daily fines overturned after their imposition by New York Judge Arthur Engoron alongside a contempt finding implicating the former president. Engoron settled on these conclusions amid a dispute between Trump and New York state Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is conducting a civil investigation into the Trump family business and subpoenaed documents that Trump has failed to provide.

Trump’s side claimed he didn’t have sought after documents, but Engoron found that documentation provided of the supposed search for the materials wasn’t sufficient. Trump had sought to get the appeals court to impose an initial hold on the $10,000 daily fines while his appeal of Engoron’s ruling proceeds. Later this month, the full appeals court to which Trump appealed will decide on whether to continue with the fines. Previously, Engoron wrote that “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.”

Engoron also said that a personal affidavit from Trump was “completely devoid of any useful detail” and “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,” among other issues. James’s investigation has hinged on apparent deceptive valuations from the Trump company for its assets. In one example, overstated valuations for conservation easements at Trump properties in California and New York were provided to tax authorities, allowing for the former president’s family business to obtain apparently unearned tax benefits. Potential lenders were also among targets for dubious claims from the Trump company regarding its financial state — higher valuations for lenders would have made the Trump Organization artificially seem financially better off, helping it obtain better terms.

In another example of the sort of issue investigators have scrutinized, Trump valued a golf course in Jupiter, Florida at $46 million after purchasing it for just $5 million. And appraisals for a different property prepared across a period of several years in the early 2010s varied in connection with the target for the figures — appraisals provided to a bank for a Trump-owned Manhattan property pinned its worth between $200 million and $220 million. A few years later, the same real estate firm appraised the same building at $550 million for a potential lender. Because James’s investigation is civil in nature, it’s set up to lead to a lawsuit with ensuing potentially hefty financial penalties for the Trump company if James proves any potential claims. A lawyer from James’s team recently indicated that the filing of an “enforcement action” targeting Trump’s company was likely imminent.