A New York judge is holding Donald Trump in civil contempt after the state’s attorney general’s office said he did not comply with a subpoena for documents as part of its investigation into the former President’s company.
Judge Arthur Engoron said Trump failed to abide by his order to comply with the subpoena, and that his attorneys failed to show how a search of materials held by Trump was conducted. Engoron said Trump would be fined $10,000 a day until he complies.
“Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 per day until you purge that contempt,” Engoron said at a hearing Monday. A written decision with a start date for fines is expected Tuesday.
Trump plans to appeal the decision, his attorney Alina Habba told reporters.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision today,” Habba said. “All documents, as I explained, responsive to the subpoena were already produced to the attorney general months ago.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office has been investigating the Trump Organization for more than two years and previously said her office found multiple misleading or fraudulent misstatements and omissions in the Trump Organization’s financial statements, which were provided to lenders and insurers, among others, as part of its investigation.
Andrew Amer, with the attorney general’s office, said that Trump has failed to produce “even a single responsive document” for a subpoena that was issued to him in December.
“We are being hampered in our efforts to have a complete understanding because we don’t have evidence from the person who sits at the top of the organization,” Amer said.
Kevin Wallace, with the attorney general’s office, said in some instances it’s been “like pulling teeth” to get documents needed for the investigation, and describing the Trump Organization as a closely-held family company with 500 entities and millions of dollars moving around.
In court, Habba said the former president does not believe he is above the law, but simply does not have the types of written communications that were sought by the subpoena, but that he produced hundreds of thousands of documents through his assistants. Habba said she herself searched Trump’s hard copy calendars and physical file locations, and even interviewed her client in Florida.
“President Trump does not email. He does not text message. And he has no work computer at home or anywhere else,” Habba said.
“I took it upon myself to get on a plane and flew down and asked him one by one if there was anything that he had on his person that he had not given me I would need that. And he did not,” she said.
The judge asked why Trump didn’t sign an affidavit swearing that he complied with the subpoena. Habba said that he would.
“My client is an honest person, much to the dismay of certain people in this room,” Habba said.
James’ office has said in court filings that the Trump Organization is under investigation for engaging in fraudulent or misleading conduct in connection with appraisals and financial statements. The office has subpoenaed both the former president and his company for documents related to its investigation.
Habba argued that the attorney general’s investigation has “seemingly become aimless,” saying that since it began three years ago, the Trump Organization has been given six separate subpoenas, produced more than 6 million pages of documents, and 13 Trump Organization witnesses have been deposed, among other things.
“The scope is continuously changing to fit the attorney general’s needs,” Habba said in court. “When it is not satisfied with the evidence it has obtained it pivots and looks for something new.”
Judge orders Cushman and Wakefield to comply with NY AG subpoena
Also Monday, Engoron allowed James’ office to add real estate services firm Cushman and Wakefield as a respondent to its legal action against the Trump Organization, and ordered the company to comply with a subpoena for documents.
At the heart of the subpoenas are appraisals from Cushman and Wakefield appraisers who worked on valuations for Trump Organization properties, as well as documents showing relationships between the two companies and internal communications about Cushman’s decision to ultimately sever ties with the Trump Organization in January.
Austin Thompson, an attorney with the New York attorney general’s office, said his office has identified “misstatements” made by appraisers who made valuations at a Trump Organization property in Westchester County, New York, known as Seven Springs. And while the statute of limitations on some of the appraisals may have run out, the office still wants to investigate other reports that may be more recent and indicated that the real estate firm could become a party to future legal action by the office.
“We’d like to understand whether these folks are committing misconduct today,” Thompson said. “Cushman has made repeated misstatements in the documents we’ve seen so far, so we’re entitled to look at other documents, other appraisals they’ve written.”
Sawnie McEntire, an attorney for Cushman and Wakefield, said the four subpoenas the company has received from the attorney general’s office since 2019 are “overly broad.” He said the company has dealt with a dozen subpoenas for documents and witness testimony, including depositions with appraisers who worked on Trump Organization property valuations.
“We cannot be faulted because we believe their requests have exceeded what is legally required,” McEntire said.
James’ office is also seeking details on how much money Cushman and Wakefield has made from its relationship with the Trump Organization. McEntire said in court that the company made less than $200,000 doing business with the Trump Organization on the appraisal side of its business.
Engoron also granted the attorney general’s office’s request to file documents with the court only, because they contained information that could harm its ongoing investigation.
This story has been updated with the ruling on Cushman and Wakefield.