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Judge holds Trump in contempt of documents in New York AG investigation

A New York judge on Monday found Donald J. Trump in contempt of court for failing to deliver documents to the state attorney general, an extraordinary rebuke from the former president.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ordered Mr. Trump to comply with a subpoena requesting records and imposed a fine of $10,000 a day until he satisfied the court’s demands. In essence, the judge found that Mr. Trump failed to cooperate with Attorney General Letitia James and failed to follow court orders.

“Mr. Trump: I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Engoron remarked, before scorning Mr. Trump and slamming his hammer.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Mr Trump, said she intended to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Still, the decision represents a significant victory for Ms. James, whose office is conducting a civil investigation into whether Mr. Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets in annual financial statements.

In January, Ms. James, a Democrat, said her office had concluded that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or deceptive” practices involving the statements. But she said she would continue to investigate before deciding whether to sue Mr. Trump or his company.

Although Ms James does not have the power to file criminal charges, her civil investigation is running alongside a criminal investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which is looking at some of the same behavior.

Ms. James’s office is involved in that separate investigation, which appeared to be closing in on Mr. Trump’s indictment earlier this year, before Mr. Bragg raised concerns about prosecutors’ ability to prove their case. Mr Bragg, also a Democrat, inherited the inquiry from his predecessor after he took office on January 1.

Monday’s ruling presents a roadblock for Mr. Trump as he continues to wrestle with the attorney general’s investigation. Ms James has sought to interview the former president and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as part of her investigation, and lawyers for the Trump family are seeking to block the questioning. (In the fall of 2020, Ms. James interviewed another of Mr. Trump’s children, Eric Trump, as part of her investigation.)

In March, Judge Engoron sided with Ms James, ordering the removal of Mr Trump and his children. The Trumps appealed the decision.

This month, lawyers in Ms James’s office said Mr Trump had refused to hand over documents in response to eight separate requests, and asked that he be held in contempt and fined $10,000 daily. $ as long as he continued not to cooperate.

Mr Trump’s lawyers had said the requests were “grossly overbroad” and did not “adequately” describe the documents requested.

Ms. Habba said in a document filed with the court last week that Mr. Trump did not have any of the documents requested by Ms. James and that those documents, if they existed, would be in the possession of the Trump Organization. .

She added that Ms James filed the contempt motion without warning, ‘apparently in an effort to turn this case into a public spectacle’.

But lawyers in Ms James’s office said they believed at least some of Mr Trump’s documents had not been turned over. In one filing, his lawyers mentioned a company filing cabinet that contained the former president’s files and noted that he used post-it notes to deliver messages to employees.

According to Ms. James, Mr. Trump’s lawyer said a file of Mr. Trump’s correspondence had not been searched, in part because the company had determined that Mr. Trump was not involved in the preparation of its own financial statements.

Ms. James called the claim implausible and referred to a statement appended to the financial statements that says, “Donald J. Trump is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation” of the valuations.

In a separate case in federal court, Mr. Trump sued Ms. James, seeking to have her civil investigation suspended and removed from the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal investigation. This case is ongoing.