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Judge rules Trump still in contempt despite swearing he has no documents sought by New York Attorney General Letitia James

Judge denies Trump bid to overturn contempt order
Judge denies Trump bid to overturn contempt order 00:20

A New York judge Friday ruled that Donald Trump remains in contempt of court, despite a sworn filing submitted by the former president claiming he does not personally have any documents subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

Trump was held in contempt by the judge on Monday, and fined $10,000 per day, for failing to turn over the documents.

Trump appealed the contempt finding, and in a trio of affidavits filed Wednesday he and his attorneys insisted that his legal team had searched for documents in response to James' wide-ranging civil fraud investigation.

"To the best of my knowledge, I do not have any of the documents requested in the subpoena dated December 1, 2021 in my personal possession, and if there are any documents responsive to the subpoena I believe they would be in the possession or custody of the Trump Organization," Trump stated in the filing.

New York Supreme Court judge Arthur Engoron ruled Friday "that Mr. Trump has not yet purged his contempt."

"Mr. Trump's personal affidavit is completely devoid of any useful detail," Engoron wrote in his ruling.

The judge ordered Trump to submit a "Jackson affidavit," a detailed recounting of what has been searched, and how, typically called for when a subpoenaed document cannot be found.

The  subpoena sought documents related to Trump's personal finances, as well as information related to the financing of several properties.

James' office asked for the contempt finding after Trump failed to meet a court-ordered March 31 deadline to turn over subpoenaed material.

In court on Monday, Trump's attorney Alina Habba said she had overseen the search for documents and promised to provide the court with an overview of her efforts. But that promise came too late for New York Supreme Court judge Arthur Engoron.

"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 a day," Engoron said before banging his gavel. 

Habba said in her affidavit that she searched several locations at the Trump Organization and interviewed Trump at Mar-a-Lago on March 17.

Andrew Amer, an attorney with James' office, said in a response filing that the Trump team's explanations were not good enough to void the contempt finding.

He said there has been no effort to search Trump's electronic devices, and described Habba's efforts as "insufficient."

"Ms. Habba should identify each of Mr. Trump's properties where he maintains a 'private residence' and/or 'personal office' and describe in detail the efforts undertaken to search files maintained at each such location for responsive documents," Amer wrote.

Judge Engoron agreed.

"The affirmations submitted by counsel for Mr. Trump are insufficient in that they fail to specify who searched for each respective request, at what time, where, and using what search protocols; it is not sufficient simply to attach a list of people who participated in the searches," Engoron wrote. "Moreover, the affirmations submitted by counsel also fail to affirm that the subject electronic devices were imaged and searched and with what search terms."

Trump and two of his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, were ordered on February 17 to appear for depositions in James' long-running civil fraud probe. They appealed the order to appear, and are awaiting a decision on that appeal. Trump did not challenge a separate part of that February 17 ruling in which he was ordered to comply with James' subpoena for documents.

James' office claimed in a February press release that its wide-ranging investigation has collected evidence "showing that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading financial statements to obtain economic benefit." The initial focus of the probe 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 and his company have repeatedly denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Habba reiterated that Monday, calling the investigation "a political crusade."

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