Attorneys for Donald Trump said they will appeal a New York judge’s Monday order holding the former president in contempt for failing to provide documents as part of civil fraud investigation into the family’s business dealings headed by the state attorney general.
Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay a fine of $10,000 each day that he remains in violation.
“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Engoron said before issuing the ruling from the bench in a Manhattan courtroom following a hearing.
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. The judge said a contempt finding was appropriate because Trump and his lawyers hadn’t shown that they had conducted a proper search for the records sought by the subpoena.
“Today, justice prevailed,” James said after the hearing. “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.”
In a separate but related ruling on Monday, Engoron also ordered a real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, to comply with a subpoena seeking information as part of the civil fraud inquiry. James said the company provided appraisals and brokerage services for the Trump Organization.
Cushman, the attorney general argued earlier this month, “refused to comply with subpoenas for information related to its appraisals of three specific Trump-owned properties,” including Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles.
The company disputed James’ assertions, saying that it continues to “stand behind our appraisals and appraisers.”
“While we acknowledge today’s ruling, any suggestion that Cushman & Wakefield has not responded in good faith to the Attorney General’s investigation continues to be fundamentally untrue,” a company spokesperson said, adding that the firm had “devoted significant time, resource and expense in our efforts to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation including sharing tens of thousands of items of information.”
Trump, a Republican, has been fighting James in court over her investigation, which he has called a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
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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.
At the center of the inquiry is whether the Trump Organization deliberately misstated the valuations of its real estate holdings in official documents, inflating their worth to obtain loans and other financing and understating them for tax purposes.
The subpoena by investigators in December sought eight types of documents, as well as depositions by Trump and two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, The Trumps then sued to try to quash the subpoena.
The contempt finding by the judge came despite a spirited argument by Trump lawyer Alina 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.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Habba said. “All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago. The only issue raised by the attorney general at today’s hearing was with an affidavit submitted which copied the form mandated by the attorney general. This does not even come close to meeting the standard on a motion for contempt and, thus, we intend to appeal.”
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.
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A parallel criminal investigation is being conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, also a Democrat.
The criminal investigation, however, appeared to have stalled two months ago when two prosecutors leading the district attorney’s inquiry abruptly resigned.
One of them, Mark Pomerantz, told Bragg that he should pursue a case because he believes Trump “is guilty of numerous felony violations” with respect to statements of his financial condition.
But earlier this month, Bragg sent out a statement claiming the Trump investigation is continuing. “While the law constrains me from commenting further at this time,” he said, “I pledge that the Office will publicly state the conclusion of our investigation – whether we conclude our work without bringing charges, or move forward with an indictment.”
Contributing: Associated Press and Chris McKenna