February 28, 2024

New York judge Arthur Engoron on Wednesday lifted a civil contempt ruling levied against former President Donald Trump, but said Trump still needs to pay $110,000 in fines accrued and satisfy other conditions.

Trump was held in contempt on April 25 after failing to comply with a subpoena requiring he turn over documents to investigators conducting a sprawling financial fraud probe for New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump was fined $10,000 per day through May 6, the date of his most recent filing in the case.

Trump has until May 20 to file affidavits showing, in greater detail than previously provided, his legal team’s efforts to comply with subpoenas from New York State Attorney General Letitia James for which his team returned no documents or electronic devices. He must also describe the Trump Organization’s document destruction and retention policies.

A separate, long-delayed, eDiscovery operation by a third party must also be complete by that day for the contempt order to formally be purged. If Trump fails to meet Engoron’s conditions by May 20, the daily fine will be reinstated.

James’ office had demanded documents and data from specific file locations and personnel in the Trump Organization, but it had also noted that Trump failed to turn over several phones he had used. In the May 6 affidavit, Trump said he does not “know the whereabouts” of several phones, including a Samsung he used at the White House that “was taken from me at some point while I was President.”

He said he currently has two phones, an iPhone “which I have owned for several years and is for my personal use,” and a new phone which is used exclusively for posting to the social media network he owns.

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.

Engoron ordered Trump to comply by March 3, and later extended that deadline to March 31 — a date that was agreed to by both sides at the time. 

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.

The attorney general’s office and the Trump Organization are nearing the end of their tolling agreement, which temporarily pauses some statutes of limitations during document production. An attorney general’s office lawyer indicated on April 25 that once the deadline passes it may lead to civil “enforcement” against the company.

“We will likely need to bring some sort of enforcement action in the near future to preserve our rights,” said Kevin Wallace, of the attorney general’s office.

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

That investigation, which on July 1, 2021 led to charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, appears stalled.

Two leading prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, resigned in February, less than two months after newly elected Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg took office, succeeding Cyrus Vance Jr., who launched the investigation in August 2018. In Pomerantz’s resignation letter, which was published in The New York Times, Pomerantz wrote that Vance “concluded that the facts warranted prosecution,” 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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