In response to former President Donald Trump’s persistent refusal to comply with the law, a state judge imposed a $10,000 fine per day until the former president turns over evidence to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The Attorney General’s nearly two-year battle to extract evidence from the Trump Organization as part of the state office’s ongoing investigation into alleged bank fraud at the company has been overseen by New York Judge Arthur F. Engoron, who is based in New York City. A contempt order was issued in court this morning by the judge, who stated that it was necessary due to Mr. Trump’s “repeated delays and failures” in the past.
“I understand that you take your business seriously, Mr. Trump. “I take my responsibilities seriously,” Engoron said.
Attorney General Letitia James is nearing the end of her investigation into the Trump Organization, which has been focused on the way the company has routinely inflated property values for years in order to avoid paying taxes and defraud banks. Her investigators have concluded that the practise is a scheme to avoid paying taxes and defrauding banks.
In February, a judge ordered Trump and two of his adult children—executive Ivanka Trump and Don Jr.—to testify at a deposition in connection with the investigation. Despite the fact that they are continuing to fight this on appeal, Trump himself was still required to turn over documents.
Trump missed the March 3 deadline, was granted an extension until the end of the month, and has yet to turn over a page in his book. Earlier this month, the AG’s office asked the judge to intervene.
As an assistant attorney general, Kevin C. Wallace admitted in court that obtaining documents had been a “painful experience.”
While this was going on, Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, denounced it as “a political crusade.”
According to her, “the attorney general’s fact-finding endeavour has continued to expand and grow in an unreasonable and burdensome manner.” “This is, without a doubt, a fishing expedition.”
According to investigators, the Trump Organization is handing over the final batches of evidence that they must review before deciding whether or not to file a formal lawsuit against the company for violations of state business laws. Despite the fact that the law enforcement effort is strictly civil in nature, this parallel investigation has contributed significantly to the criminal investigation being conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Given the fact that the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation appears to be coming apart, the AG’s actions are now of critical importance. As of this week, a grand jury convened to consider whether to indict President Donald Trump on criminal charges will have served its term. However, because of the reluctance of Alvin Bragg Jr., the new District Attorney who inherited the investigation, prosecutors have not been permitted to seek an indictment against Trump.
It’s possible that the Attorney General’s office will pursue legal action against the Trump Organization under New York executive law 63(12), which allows the law enforcement agency to essentially shut down any business that engages in “repeated fraudulent or illegal acts,” according to the New York Times. If she wins her case, the Trump family’s corporate empire may be forced to pay monetary damages as a result.
The battle over evidence has been a long and bloody one. Since the start of the AG’s investigation in March 2019, while Trump was still in the White House, state investigators have encountered stiff resistance from members of the Trump Organization. The Attorney General made his or her efforts public in August 2020, when he or she first requested that the court intervene. After being forced to testify behind closed doors, Eric Trump, Trump’s other adult executive son, simply dodged questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination nearly 500 times, according to the court record.
Fast forward to January of this year, when the Attorney General’s office revealed in court documents the myriad of ways the Trump Organization had manipulated property values—including by inventing numbers that had no basis in reality—which James later referred to as “significant evidence” of fraud on his watch. One particularly egregious example cited by investigators was the way Trump allegedly valued Trump Tower on New York City’s Fifth Avenue on official financial statements by asserting that his three-floor palatial apartment there was 30,000 square feet, despite the fact that it was only a third of that size in reality.
In the wake of the scandal, the company’s long-time accountants at Mazars USA abruptly fired them and disavowed any previous work they had done for President Donald Trump.
During a hearing on Monday, Trump’s personal attorney attempted to argue that Trump should not be held in contempt of court for failing to turn over evidence because the Attorney General’s office provided him with a loophole: he should only turn over documents that his company has not yet turned over.
Habba asserted that the company had already begun delivering records to the public library. However, because the Trump Organization has not completed the transfer of paperwork, investigators are still missing some evidence from the investigation.
Allison R. Greenfield, the judge’s principal law clerk, focused her attention on what she perceived to be a contradiction in the ruling.
“How can you affirm that they have all been produced while at the same time claiming that they will be produced later?” Greenfield was the one who inquired.
In his subsequent statement, Habba blamed the situation on “miscommunication” between himself and the AG’s office, saying that “this amounts to a very large misunderstanding.” In her statement, the lawyer explained how she recently travelled to Trump’s personal estate in South Florida, where the twice-impeached former president personally assured her that he did not have any records about his property valuations (among other reasons, because he allegedly does not text or email).
Even the judge and the attorney general’s lawyers were taken aback by this, because Habba had made none of these claims in his legal paperwork prior to the hearing.
“The problem is that nothing is on the record,” Greenfield said in an interview with Habba. “We wouldn’t be here today if you had simply provided an affidavit,” says the judge.
It was noted by the judge that there is a distinction between simply saying something and saying something under oath.
According to Habba, “Donald Trump does not believe that he is above the law.” In the end, he doesn’t have anything left to give. My client is a trustworthy individual, much to the dismay of those present in this room.”
According to Attorney General’s Office representatives, even sworn documents would not be sufficient because investigators want to see the files in question for themselves.
“We are aware that Mr. Trump has two cell phones… As Assistant Attorney General Andrew S. Amer explained, “the only way to find out is to have the phones imaged and searched.” “We are well aware that he tweets.”
“There is no cooperation among us.” Each and every aspect of the investigation is affected by this decision. The fact that we do not have evidence from the person who sits at the top of this organisation is causing us to be hampered in our efforts to conduct a thorough investigation,” Amer explained.