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New York Attorney General Wants a Judge to Order a $10,000 a Day Fine Against Donald Trump for Flouting Subpoena


Letitia James, Donald Trump

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) wants a judge to find former President Donald Trump in civil contempt to the tune of $10,000 per day for allegedly flouting a judge’s order to comply with her subpoena.

“This Court’s order was not an opening bid for a negotiation or an invitation for a new round of challenges to the subpoena,” the attorney general’s assistant Andrew Amer wrote in a 26-page memorandum on Thursday. “It was, rather, a court order entered after full briefing and argument during which Mr. Trump could have, but did not, raise any of the purported objections or assertions he has now raised.”

Earlier this year on Feb. 17, a Manhattan judge ordered Trump and two of his adult children—Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.—to sit for depositions and have the former president provide documents responsive to her subpoena. The Trumps appealed that decision, and the attorney general agreed to put their testimony on hold until that matter is adjudicated.

But James said that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron made abundantly clear that former President Trump needed to “comply in full” with the portion of the subpoena seeking additional documents and information from him by March 31.

“But rather than ‘comply in full’ with the Court’s unambiguous directive by producing all responsive documents by March 31, Mr. Trump did not comply at all,” the AG’s memo asserts. “Instead, he served a ‘Response’ on [the Office of the Attorney General] raising objections to each of the eight document requests in the subpoena based on grounds such as overbreadth, burden, and lack of particularity. Mr. Trump further asserted, subject to his objections, that he would not produce any documents responsive to OAG’s subpoena because his counsel (based on search efforts that have not been divulged) could not find any such documents and because of his counsel’s ‘information and belief’ that if any such documents exist, the Trump Organization has them and OAG will just have to wait until the Trump Organization completes its production to get them.”

Once the judge had ruled, James noted, the time for deal-making had passed.

“Under settled law, a party is not permitted to delay proceedings through seriatim submissions to challenge an investigative subpoena, so the ship has long since sailed on Mr. Trump’s ability to raise any such objections,” the memo states.

James has been investigation Trump, his family and his business for suspected fraud for years, alleging in court documents that she has found evidence that Trump may have used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations on six properties to obtain economic benefits.

Trump has denounced the civil probe as politically motivated, but Judge Engoron rejected that argument, adding that it would have been “blatant dereliction of duty” on the part of the attorney general’s office not to investigate once his former fixer Michael Cohen accused Trump of cooking the books.

“For OAG not to have investigated the original respondents, and not to have subpoenaed the new Trump respondents, would have been a blatant dereliction of duty (and would have broken an oft repeated campaign promise). Indeed, the impetus for the investigation was not personal animus, not racial or ethnic or other discrimination, not campaign promises, but was sworn congressional testimony by former Trump associate Michael Cohen that respondents were ‘cooking the books,’” Engoron wrote in February.

Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba called the contempt motion “frivolous and baseless.”

“Our client has consistently complied with the many discovery requests served by the Attorney General’s office over the years,” Habba told Law&Crime, adding that they plan to “adamantly oppose” the motion.

Update—April 7 at 3:25 p.m. Eastern Time: This story has been updated to add a comment by Trump’s lawyer.

Read the contempt motion, below:

[Images via Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."