In the civil lawsuit from New York state Attorney General Letitia James over claims of years of financial misconduct at the Trump family business, both sides were back in court on Wednesday in response to outrage from the attorney general’s team over some of the Trumps’ initial replies to her allegations.
The issues were numerous. Filings made in reply to James contended with describing Trump during his time in the White House as an “inactive president” of the Trump Organization, although that is the exact phrasing Donald himself used in a deposition from a different court case. The Trumps also denied basic facts to which they’d previously admitted, claimed to hold insufficient knowledge to answer allegations it seemed were clearly answerable, and brought the argument of political animosity from James back up, despite losing on that front — including in front of this very judge! — over and over. (When Trump publicly claims he is being targeted for political reasons in the James case, that exact argument has been repeatedly shot down in court.)
Kevin Wallace, an attorney with James’s office, raised the possibility of sanctions for the Trumps and their legal counsel in a letter to the judge, New York’s Arthur Engoron, which preceded the hearing on Wednesday.
“Sanctions are messy, controversial, and I’m hoping we can just reach a resolution,” Engoron said this week, according to journalist Jose Pagliery, although the judge, who has a decades-long career, said attempts at an argument of the sort the Trumps were making were a rarity in terms of the ridiculousness. “In my 35 years practicing law, I have never, never… seen a pleading with such excess verbiage as the 300-page or so answers of the 15 or so answers to the complaint,” the judge told those assembled. He also insisted on moving towards the previously scheduled trial, rather than getting bogged down in delays, saying: “Whatever we do today, I am determined to start the trial on October 2, 2023, come hell or high water. And pardon my French.”
Among the contentions from the Trumps’ representatives was that an allegation from James focused on a business entity responsible for a contested property just north of New York City that wasn’t actually a “subsidiary” of the Trump Organization. Instead, the idea was it was just “part of” it, as relayed by Pagliery. According to the same journalist, the Trumps’ attorneys agreed to refile a version of their answers that was less weighed down by the contested drivel. Engoron himself previously imposed sanctions on Trump over failures to effectively comply with demands from James for supporting evidence in her preceding investigation, and accompanying those judicial penalties, Trump also got a $110,000 fine. Trump also more recently faced sanctions in a court case he filed in Florida alleging some kind of actionable conspiracy to undercut his 2016 campaign with talk of ties to Russia — and in those sanctions came an obligation shared between him and lawyer Alina Habba to pay nearly $1 million, including some to Hillary Clinton.