(The Hill) – A judge ruled on Monday that former President Donald Trump should be held in contempt for violating a court order requiring him to comply with a subpoena regarding a civil investigation into his business practices, a reported the New York Times.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) asked a state court judge to fine Trump $10,000 for each day he failed to turn over relevant documents to his subpoena.
Earlier this month, his office accused Trump of defying the court order by saying he had no documents requested by the subpoena and even raising objections to the request for documents after that he was ordered to comply with it.
“Mr. Trump’s purported ‘response’ violates the Court’s order; it is not full compliance, or any degree of compliance, but simply more delay and obfuscation,” James’ office wrote. in his motion for contempt.
“In the circumstances presented here, long after the return date of the subpoena had passed, and long after this Court denied the motion to quash, Mr. Trump no longer had the right to challenge the subpoena.”
The investigation is a civil matter, which means it cannot lead directly to criminal charges, but it is taking place alongside a Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation that has already resulted in the indictment of the chief financial officer of the Trump organization.
While Trump has repeatedly attacked James and his investigation into his business practices, his attorneys deny improperly hiding anything from investigators.
James said the investigation is focused on whether the Trump Organization has inflated the value of its assets over the years for financial gain. His office said it found “significant” evidence pointing to rampant financial fraud at the company, and a state court judge who personally reviewed some of the requested documents appears to agree.
In February, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron rejected Trump’s efforts to block James’ subpoena, ordering the former president to provide both documents and testimony to the office. of the Attorney General. Engoron wrote that Trump’s arguments that the investigation is politically motivated have little bearing on whether he should comply with the subpoena.
“Ultimately, a state attorney general begins to investigate a business entity, uncovers extensive evidence of possible financial fraud, and wishes to interview, under oath, several of the entity’s executives, including its namesake. She clearly has the right to do so,” the judge said.
Trump appealed Engoron’s order to sit for a deposition, which is currently pending in the state appeals court, but his attorneys initially did not raise any objections to the part of the decision regarding the document production.
Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, told the court last week that her client did not challenge the ruling and that all documents relevant to James’ subpoena were in his company’s possession.
“After conducting a diligent search and review, counsel for the respondent determined that the respondent was not in possession of any documents responsive to the subpoena and that all potentially responsive documents were in possession, under custody or under the control of the Trump Organization,” Habba wrote.
Mirroring Trump’s social media attacks on the state attorney general, Habba also suggested the contempt motion was politically motivated.
“Given the OAG’s recalcitrant behavior, it is fair to question the OAG’s motive in bringing forward the snap request, which appears to be little more than a contrived publicity stunt,” she wrote, using an acronym for the Attorney General’s Office.
It is unclear whether Engoron will ultimately despise Trump. E. Danya Perry, a former New York state deputy attorney general who is now in private practice, said judges have broad discretion to determine whether litigants have defied court orders and what impose sanctions to compel compliance, but generally avoid imposing punitive measures. measures.
“It’s not meant to punish the person found in contempt, it’s really meant to compel compliance,” Perry said. “So here the judge will have to assess what it will take to start a fire and get them to comply with the court order.”
She said Trump’s legal team will likely struggle on Monday to show they are making good faith efforts to comply with Engoron’s decision.
“This game over whether or not the documents are in the custody of Mr. Trump, when they are clearly in the custody of the Trump Organization is a distinction without difference,” Perry said. “A lot of courts will be tolerant of internal deadlines that are passed, but they tend to look askance at a court-imposed deadline.”
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