NEW YORK –
A New York judge has stopped the clock on Donald Trump’s US$10,000-a-day fine for failing to turn over documents in a state civil investigation and said Wednesday he’ll lift the former U.S. president’s contempt finding altogether if he meets certain conditions, including paying $110,000 in fines he’s racked up so far.
Judge Arthur Engoron said he will conditionally lift Trump’s contempt finding if, by May 20, Trump submits additional affidavits detailing efforts to search for the subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies; a company he hired to aid the search completes its work; and he pays the fines.
Engoron found Trump in contempt on April 25 and fined him $10,000 per day for not complying with a subpoena for documents in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into his business practices, which she said has uncovered evidence that Trump may have misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for over a decade.
The total Engoron ordered Trump to pay is the amount of fines accrued through last Friday, when Trump’s lawyers submitted 66 pages of court documents detailing the efforts by him and his lawyers to locate the subpoenaed records. Engoron could reinstate the fine if the conditions he set forth on Wednesday are not met.
Also Wednesday, a state appellate court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Trump’s appeal in another subpoena matter: Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling requiring him to answer questions under oath in James’ investigation.
A message seeking comment was left with Trump’s lawyer.
James, a Democrat, asked Engoron to hold Trump in contempt of court after he failed to produce any documents to satisfy a March 31 deadline to meet the terms of the subpoena.
James’ office sought numerous documents, including paperwork and communications pertaining to Trump’s financial statements, financing and debt for a Chicago hotel project and development plans for his Seven Springs Estate north of New York City, and even communications with Forbes magazine, where he sought to burnish his image as a wealthy businessman.
Trump attorney Alina Habba said in the May 6 filing that the responses to the subpoena were complete and correct and that no relevant documents or information were withheld.
Habba conducted searches of Trump’s offices and private quarters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and his residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, according to the filing, but didn’t find any relevant documents that hadn’t already been produced. The filing also detailed searches of other locations including file cabinets and storage areas at the Trump Organization’s offices in New York.
In a separate sworn affidavit included with the filing, Trump stated there aren’t any relevant documents that haven’t already been produced.
He added that he owns two cellphones: an iPhone for personal use that he submitted in March to be searched as part of the subpoena, then submitted again in May; plus a second phone he was recently given that’s only used to post on Truth Social, the social media network he started after his ban from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Engoron’s criteria for lifting the contempt finding were largely in line with conditions James’ office outlined in its response Monday to the lengthy filing last week in which Trump and his legal team said they had exhausted efforts to find the subpoenaed records.
Those conditions sought by James’ office were: Trump submitting another affidavit detailing his and his company’s retention and destruction policies for his documents and electronic devices; and allowing the outside firm Trump hired, HaystackID, to finish going through 17 boxes kept at an off-site storage facility, and for that company to issue a report on its findings and turn over any relevant documents.