Donald Trump found in contempt of court and ordered to pay New York's attorney general a $10,000-a-day fine
Manhattanjudge found Donald Trumpin contempt of courtand ordered he pay a $10,000-a-day fine.
- NY AG
Letitia Jameshad asked for the fine to "coerce" him into turning over personal business documents.
A Manhattan judge on Monday found that Donald Trump is in contempt of court and must pay a $10,000-a-day fine to the New York attorney general until he is in compliance with subpoenas that demand his personal business documents.
Trump has failed to show he has conducted "a proper, thorough search" for paperwork Attorney General Letitia James is seeking in her three-year probe of the former president's real estate and branding company,
"Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously," New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said from the bench. "But I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 a day."
Trump lawyer Alina Habba had argued that Trump has already turned over everything he has. She said after court that she believed she could clear the matter up quickly.
"We're going to wait for the order" to be filed in the official court docket, on Tuesday, she told reporters.
"If it's a simple order, saying 'sign an affidavit' [asserting how and where Trump's documents were searched for, as requested by the judge,] I intend to comply," she said.
"It could be resolved in an hour," she said. "It looks like they're asking for an affidavit."
In a press statement, Habba said, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision. All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago."
In her own press statement, James called the decision "a major victory. "
"Today, justice prevailed," she said. "For years, Donald Trump has tried ot evade the
Engoron had hinted at how he was leaning earlier Monday, when he told one of the AG's lawyers that it's fully within Trump's right to say that James already has everything she's asked for — but that such an assertion is not enough.
"He can't produce what he doesn't have. But you can't just say, 'I don't have anything,'" the judge said. "You have to say where you looked."
The AG has complained in court documents as recently as Friday night that Trump has failed to say whether a search for documents has been made at specific locations of interest.
Those include Trump's so-called "chron" files — meaning hardcopy documents stored in chronological order after having crossed Trump's desk, as described to James' office in a deposition last summer by Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten.
"Mr. Trump's hard copy calendars" are also missing, the latest AG filing had noted.
So are "files located in cabinets outside Mr. Trump's office," in "the storage room by Mr. Trump's office," and in "the file cabinets located on the 25th and 26th floors," the filing adds — apparent references to the Trump Organization headquarters in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Trump "does not email," his lawyer, Alina Habba, told the judge. "He does not text-message and he has no work computer or anywhere else."
The AG's lawyers said Monday that they were well aware of that.
"He makes notes on papers," one of the AG's lawyers, Kevin C. Wallace, told the judge.
"We want to be able to understand what happened to those documents."
Earlier in the hearing, Engoron singled out Trump's own failure to sign an affidavit swearing personally that he has searched everywhere, and found nothing James wants.
"I feel like that's the 800-pound gorilla in the room here," the judge quipped. "Why don't we have an affidavit from him? Why not get an affidavit from him?"
"I would be happy to do so," if that was required, Habba responded. "Because he doesn't have anything left to give."
When the judge asked how Habba knows that "he'll swear to one?" Habba answered, "Because my client is an honest person, much to the dismay of some of the people in this room."
Also, she added, "We have have nothing to hide."
The judge responded by noting that "there is a difference between saying something — and saying something under oath."
But after the hearing, Habba said she would not be asking Trump to swear such an affidavit.
"I would be shocked if that was asked for," she told reporters. "I'm his counsel. I'd be more than happy to sign the affidavit."
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