Trump Held in Contempt of Court


Peter Foley

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, has asked a judge to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court.

Momo Sutton, Reporter

On April 25th, Donald Trump, who previously served as the 45th president of the United States, was found in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents to the state’s attorney general. These records that Trump failed to produce were being sought as part of a civil probe into his business practices, though Trump’s legal team has stated that there are no records in his possession that match what the attorney general’s team has asked for.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (Democrat) did not attempt to jail Trump, but asked New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron to penalize him financially for failing to comply with an order to produce the documents by March 31. Engoron agreed to fine Trump $10,000 for each day the failure to comply continues— a serious public reprimand for the former president, who remains dominant in the Republican Party and has already signaled he will again seek the White House in the next presidential election in 2024.

“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Engoron said while in the courtroom, appearing to speak to Trump directly, even though he was not present in the courtroom for the hearing. The judge said he would hold Trump in contempt until Trump and his legal team either submit the records or, if they maintain the documents being requested do not exist, or not in their possession, fully detail the extent of their search. He asked for the “who, what, when, where, and how any search was conducted.”

Engoron earlier denied a request by the family to revoke James’s subpoenas in the civil case or delay enforcing them until the conclusion of the criminal probe. He said the Trumps must sit for depositions within three weeks, and Donald Trump must provide the requested records within 14 days.

Letitia James has claimed that Trump and the family-run Trump Organization may have broken the law by manipulating the value of their assets for better loan rates and tax benefits. The Trumps have appealed the deposition order, with arguments in court scheduled for May 11. Trump is also the target of several other political and legal probes involving issues that include his conduct around the 2020 presidential election results; a defamation lawsuit filed by author and columnist E. Jean Carroll; and his removal of White House records to Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump Organization has provided over 6 million pages of records to James’s office. But investigators are still seeking items from Trump’s personal files, including handwritten notes related to statements of his net worth that he has signed and submitted to banks and other parties. The documents would potentially enable investigators to compare copies of records they believe Trump maintained to other documents they have in their possession. James’s office has said valuations in some cases were wildly different and that Trump might have used the process to cheat lenders and tax authorities.

Also, at the hearing on April 25th, a lawyer for James’s office said an “enforcement action” may soon be taken in the long-running civil investigation. A successful lawsuit by James could result in significant financial penalties and other repercussions for Trump’s family real estate and golf resort operation.