NEW YORK — A New York judge found former President Donald Trump in contempt of court and set in motion $10,000 daily fines Monday for failing to adequately respond to a subpoena issued by the state’s attorney general as part of a civil investigation into his business dealings.
Judge Arthur Engoron said a contempt finding was appropriate because Trump and his lawyers hadn’t shown they had conducted a proper search for the records sought by the subpoena.
“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Engoron said in a Manhattan courtroom packed with reporters. “I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 a day” until the terms of the subpoena are met.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, had asked the court to hold Trump in contempt after he missed a March 31 court-imposed deadline to turn over documents.
Trump, a Republican, has been fighting James in court over her investigation, which he has called a politically motivated “witch hunt.” During oral arguments Monday, Trump attorney Alina Habba said that “Donald Trump does not believe he is above the law.”
James has been conducting a lengthy investigation into the Trump Organization, the former president’s family company, centering around what she has claimed is a pattern of misleading banks and tax authorities about the value of his properties.
“Today, justice prevailed,” James said in a release after Engoron’s ruling. “For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company’s financial dealings. Today’s ruling makes clear: No one is above the law.”
The contempt finding by the judge came despite a spirited argument by Habba, who insisted repeatedly that she went to great lengths to comply with the subpoena, even traveling to Florida to ask Trump specifically whether he had in his possession any documents that would be responsive to the demand.
“The contempt motion is inappropriate and misleading,” she said. “He complied. … There are no more documents left to produce by President Trump.”
She also derided the James probe as “political” and “truly a fishing expedition,” saying Trump and his companies had turned over more than 6 million documents and paperwork related to 103 Trump entities over an eight-year period.
“We’ve turned over everything as fast as possible. This is a waste of judicial resources,” Habba added.
Trump spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigators for James have said in court filings that they uncovered evidence that Trump may have misstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers on his financial statements for more than a decade.
A parallel criminal investigation is being conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, also a Democrat.
Story by Larry Neumeister.