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Don't lift Trump's contempt order yet, says New York attorney general

Judge lifts contempt finding against Trump
New York judge lifts contempt finding against Trump, pending certain conditions 04:55

Former President Donald Trump's attempts to satisfy a state judge who has held him in contempt for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents "were undertaken in good faith," but were unsatisfactory, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James' office.

A former assistant to Trump who worked for his company for decades should provide more detail about the Trump Organization's practices for retaining and destroying documents, and answer other questions, special counsel Andrew Amer, an attorney for James's office, said Monday in a letter. Amer and other investigators from James' office are conducting a sprawling civil financial fraud probe of Trump and his company.

Trump was held in contempt April 25 after claiming he had no documents or electronic devices demanded in a subpoena by investigators for James' office. The subpoena sought documents related to Trump's personal finances, as well as information related to the financing of several properties. Trump was fined $10,000 per day through May 6, when his attorneys first filed explanations of their attempts to search for subpoenaed documents.

Both the judge, Arthur Engoron, and James' office agreed at the time that the explanations were not detailed enough. Engoron paused the fine at $110,000, but demanded more than a dozen affidavits from Trump Organization staff and attorneys attesting to how they searched for documents. Trump paid the fine on May 19, and the next day his attorneys filed the affidavits, but noted they were unable to contact 12 of Trump's former executive assistants.

"It is striking that counsel could not locate any of Mr. Trump's 12 former executive assistants," Amer wrote. While several of the executive assistants haven't worked for the company in years, Trump's attorneys apparently neglected to list at all, or seek an affidavit from, one other executive assistant who worked for Trump as recently as December. Amer called that a "glaring omission."

An attorney for Trump did not reply to a request for comment.

The Trump Organization included an affidavit from just one former assistant, Rhona Graff, who worked for the Trump Organization for three decades. It also included one from a person who identified herself as a property administrator and former staff writer for the Trump Organization. 

Amer asked Engoron to give the Trump Organization until June 1 to provide more information: an affidavit from the unlisted executive assistant who recently worked for Trump, and a deposition from Graff answering a series of detailed questions about how she handled documents sent to and from Trump, including notes he made on company material.

James' office has said its investigation has collected evidence "showing that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading financial statements to obtain economic benefit." The investigation's initial focus was on whether the Trump Organization inflated the valuations of assets while seeking loans and insurance coverage, and deflated their value to reduce tax liability.

Trump has repeatedly denied all allegations of personal and company wrongdoing.

Attorneys for James' office have indicated during multiple hearings in the last month that the investigation is nearing its conclusion, and that it may lead to an "enforcement action in the near future." They have not elaborated on what enforcement might be.

"There's clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding, although the final determination on filing that proceeding has yet to be made," Amer said during a May 13 hearing in a federal lawsuit filed by Trump to try to halt James' investigation.

Two attorneys from James' office remain assigned to a separate Manhattan district attorney's office criminal probe of Trump and his company, for which a special grand jury recently expired.

That investigation led in July 2021 to criminal fraud and tax evasion charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. In January, they filed motions to dismiss the criminal case. In a response filing made public Monday, a prosecutor urged a New York judge to move forward with the case.

The Manhattan criminal probe has seen apparent turmoil since the February resignations of two lead prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, who quit less than two months after newly elected Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg took office. Bragg succeeded Cyrus Vance Jr., who launched the investigation in August 2018. 

In Pomerantz's resignation letter, which was published in The New York Times, he wrote that Vance "concluded that the facts warranted prosecution" of Trump, but that Bragg had "reached the decision … not to seek criminal charges at the present time."

Bragg said in an April 7 statement that the criminal investigation "is continuing" and his investigators and prosecutors are "exploring evidence not previously explored."

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