NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge on Wednesday “conditionally” lifted a civil contempt order that included a $10,000 per day fine against former President Donald Trump in the New York attorney general’s probe of the Trump family business.
State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s decision doesn’t let Trump entirely off the hook — it requires him to pay $110,000 in fines accrued between April 26 and May 6. Engoron imposed the fines to punish Trump and his business for defying a court-ordered deadline to turn over documents to state Attorney General Letitia James.
Trump has to submit detailed affidavits regarding what he knows about searches for the documents, and Engoron wrote that he will have to be satisified that “all responsive documents” have been turned over to James’ staff, his order states.
If Trump doesn’t comply by May 20, the daily fines will resume retroactive to May 7, Engoron said.
Engoron issued his order following a phone conference with parties in the case.
James’ civil investigation is poised to soon result in a lawsuit against Trump, his family business and top company executives, lawyers for the attorney general said in April.
Investigators say they’ve uncovered evidence Trump Organization executives habitually misrepresented the value of company properties by hundreds of millions of dollars to enrich themselves.
As James’ nearly three-year probe draws to a close, Trump has repeatedly maintained through his attorney Alina Habba that he has no more evidence to personally hand over, as he never put anything in writing, whether by email or text.
But when Engoron inquired about Trump’s penchant for writing on Post-it notes at a recent court hearing, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Wallace said the office had found evidence the digital-averse Trump regularly put pen to paper.
“We have seen, your honor, some people keep documents that Donald Trump will take notations on,” Wallace said.
Also, Wallace said, Trump signed some documents, such as leases, after they were printed out by Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. “We were told that there were retentions of copies of things that he would sign off on,” Wallace said at the hearing.
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty to criminal fraud charges in the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal investigation, which has been running parallel to James’. Prosecutors say they engaged in an “audacious” 15-year tax fraud scheme, dodging more than $1 million in taxes.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has insisted the probe he inherited could still result in charges against Trump. However, the resignations of two investigators leading it, who said they believe Trump is guilty of numerous felonies, have led many to believe the former president will not be held criminally responsible.
Also Wednesday, a lawyer for Trump and his adult children, Ivanka and Don Jr., argued before a panel of state Appellate Division judges against a separate Engoron order requiring them to sit for depositions in James’ civil investigation.
At the hearing, Trump family lawyer Alan Futerfas sought a hearing to determine whether the attorney general improperly seeks to to question the Trump family to obtain information for the Manhattan District Attorney that could lead to criminal charges.
”If that civil investigation creates criminal jeopardy, then it creates criminal jeopardy,” quipped presiding Appellate Division Judge Rolando Acosta. The appeals court is expected to rule on the request in the coming weeks.