• Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

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N.Y. AG seeks to hold Donald Trump in civil contempt

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to hold former President Donald Trump in civil contempt over his efforts to stonewall her civil tax fraud investigation.

In court filings Thursday, James’ office said Trump failed to comply with a judge’s order to turn over subpoenaed documents and asked the judge to fine him $10,000 a day until he turns over the documents and records.

“[R]ather than ‘comply in full’ with the Court’s unambiguous directive by producing all responsive documents by March 31, Mr. Trump did not comply at all,” the court filing says.

James said in a statement: “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”

Trump responded by insisting he is “innocent.”

“This is just a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time, by a failed Attorney General, who continues to use her office for political gain,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said his legal team will “adamantly oppose the frivolous and baseless motion filed by the Attorney General’s office today.”

“Our client has consistently complied with the many discovery requests served by the Attorney General’s office over the years,” Habba said in a statement.

James’ office has been investigating whether to file a civil suit against the Trump Organization over allegations that it inflated financial statements for over two years. In court filings, her office alleged that it has “uncovered substantial evidence establishing numerous misrepresentations in Mr. Trump’s financial statements provided to banks, insurers, and the Internal Revenue Service.”

The Trump Organization, which has denied any wrongdoing, has portrayed itself in court papers as having bent over backward to comply with the document requests. In a February court filing, the company said it “has been producing thousands of documents each week (in excess of 750,000 by the OAG’s own admission), all the while keeping the OAG updated on its progress with weekly progress reports.” (“OAG” is short for Office of the Attorney General.)

The company also said it is “on track” to meet an April 15 deadline to turn over all of the relevant documents.

James’ office has complained that the company has been slow to turn over documents involving Trump, even though he “personally executed documents central to the issues under investigation.” Among the items the attorney general’s office has said it wants to review are “file cabinets at the Trump Organization holding Mr. Trump’s files” and “Post-It notes” that he used “to communicate with his employees.”

In his February order, a New York judge ordered Trump personally to turn over documents, as well, which the attorney general’s office had said he agreed to do.

Trump was initially supposed to turn the documents over by March 1, but his lawyers asked for more time, the attorney general’s office said. The filing says James’ office extended the time to March 31, “which Mr. Trump’s counsel agreed was acceptable and the Court approved.”

When March 31 arrived, however, Trump’s attorneys filed objections, arguing that the subpoena “is grossly overbroad, unintelligible, unduly burdensome, and does not adequately describe which documents and communications are requested or sought with reasonable particularity.”

James’ office said that Trump’s lawyers also said they wouldn’t turn over documents because they hadn’t been able to find them and they were likely to be in the possession of the Trump Organization. The attorney general’s office said that’s not enough of a response and that Trump’s lawyers didn’t include necessary details, including “which records were sought, what locations were searched, or what individuals worked with counsel or at his direction to conduct such a search.”

In addition to the $10,000 a day in fines, James’ office is also asking the judge to award legal fees for the extra costs stemming from the stonewalling.

Trump, his family and his company have been fighting James’ efforts to collect more information from them tooth and nail in court.

The Trumps are appealing another part of the February order, from state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, which said the former president and two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, have to sit for depositions in the attorney general’s investigation.

Trump also sued James in federal court in December to halt the investigation, arguing that her probe is a politically motivated “witch hunt” designed to provide fuel for a criminal investigation into the company by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Two lawyers from James’ office had assisted the district attorney’s stalled investigation, which has led to criminal charges against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, its former chief financial officer. The company and Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include allegations of tax fraud and falsification of business records.

The two top prosecutors in the district attorney’s investigation resigned in February, reportedly frustrated that District Attorney Alvin Bragg had paused testimony before the grand jury hearing the case.

In an unusual statement Thursday, Bragg said his office’s investigation into Trump, the Trump Organization and its leadership “is continuing.”

He said his prosecutors “are going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored.”

“While the law constrains me from commenting further at this time, I pledge that the Office will publicly state the conclusion of our investigation — whether we conclude our work without bringing charges, or move forward with an indictment,” Bragg said.

“In the meantime, we will not be discussing our investigative steps,” he added.