Trump appeals contempt ruling, $10,000-a-day fine

Donald Trump’s lawyer says the New York attorney general failed to show the ex-president’s conduct was calculated to impede a probe.

Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump denies wrongdoing and says investigations into his business practices is politically motivated [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Former United States President Donald Trump has filed an appeal against a New York judge’s decision to hold him in contempt of court for failing to produce documents requested in a state investigation into his business practices.

The appeal on Wednesday came two days after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron issued a ruling to fine Trump $10,000 per day until he properly responds to a subpoena from New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer, argued in her appeal that the ex-president responded adequately to the subpoena, saying that James failed to show that Trump’s actions were “calculated to defeat, impair, impede, or prejudice” the probe.

Habba also said James refused to engage in “good-faith discussions” before seeking to have Trump fined.

James, a Democrat, has been investigating whether Trump, a Republican, inflated the value of his assets to improperly obtain bank loans and other financial benefits.

Engoron ruled on Monday that a contempt decision was appropriate because of what he called “repeated failures” to hand over materials, and said it was not clear Trump had conducted a complete search for the requested documents.

“Mr. Trump … I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt,” the judge said, although Trump himself was not in the New York state courtroom in Manhattan.

James had hailed Monday’s ruling as a “major victory”.

“Today, justice prevailed,” she said in a statement. “For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company’s financial dealings. Today’s ruling makes clear: No one is above the law.”

Habba, however, insisted after the ruling that “all documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago”, although James’s office had said that it received “zero documents” from Trump by the end of March.

Trump denies wrongdoing and says investigations into his business practices are politically motivated. Last year, he sued James to block the probe. The lawsuit called the investigation a “baseless” and “malicious” fishing expedition seeking to harass the ex-president.

For her part, James has said that her probe had found “significant evidence” suggesting that for more than 10 years financial statements from Trump’s company “relied on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits”.

The New York attorney general launched the civil investigation in 2019 after Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified in Congress that the ex-president exaggerated his assets “when it served his purposes”.

Trump was impeached twice as president, including in early 2021 for inciting a riot at the US Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the election victory of his successor Joe Biden, but he was acquitted by the Senate in votes along party lines.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies