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A Manhattan judge has purged his contempt order against former President Donald Trump for failing to adequately respond to New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) subpoenas in her fraud investigation.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron started issuing a $10,000 fine per day against Trump after a dramatic hearing on April 25, 2022, telling him: “Mr. Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously.”
Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, who appealed that ruling, has insisted that her client provided all the information that the subpoenas sought.
By mid-May, Engoron gave Trump a road map to cap the fine at $110,000 and purge his contempt by providing so-called “Jackson affidavits,” which lay out in detail the measures that the former president and his lawyers took to find responsive records.
On Wednesday, Justice Engoron found that Trump satisfied those measures in a brief, one-paragraph order.
“Upon the foregoing documents, and having reviewed the recent additional submissions of respondent Donald J.Trump, and the petitioner having agreed that respondent’s additional submissions satisfy the Court’s prior orders, it is hereby ordered that the contempt of respondent Donald J. Trump is purged,” Engoron wrote. “The $110,000 that respondent has previously placed in petitioner’s escrow account shall, as per stipulation, remain in escrow pending the final disposition of respondent’s appeal.”
Trump’s legal team had a mixed reaction to the ruling.
“Although we are pleased that the court has lifted the contempt finding, we maintain that it was wholly unwarranted and improper in the first place,” Habba told Law&Crime in a statement. “We will push ahead with our appeal to secure justice for our client.”
As the filing suggests, Trump is still appealing his contempt order, and he will not need to pay that fine if he prevails. He unsuccessfully tried to block his upcoming deposition on July 15, just weeks from today. The former president’s attorneys have argued that testimony puts him in a constitutional Catch-22 because, although James’s investigation is putatively civil in nature, she has been helping Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) with his criminal investigation of Trump.
If Trump asserts his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, those answers cannot be used against him in any criminal case, but an adverse inference can be drawn from them in a civil case. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, was unmoved and dismissed the appeal earlier this month. Their terse order stated that “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.”
When Trump tried to purge his contempt order earlier this month on June 8, Justice Engoron found one more disclosure was necessary: the Trump Organization’s document retention and deletion policies. Descriptions of those policies later filed in court showed them to be thin or absent.
“The Legal Department does not currently have, nor has it ever had, a retention, destruction, or preservation policy that is specific to Respondent or to Respondent’s Documents,” wrote the Trump Organization’s executive vice president Alan Garten, referring to Trump.
Other affidavits showed that the Trump Organization’s accounting, golf, hotel, design, property management, or IT departments don’t have those policies with respect to Trump’s documents either.
Read the order here:
(Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)
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