© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a rally in Washington Township, Michigan, U.S. April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo
By Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York’s attorney general on Thursday asked a state judge to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court for not turning over documents she subpoenaed for a civil probe into the former U.S. president’s business practices.
In a court filing, Attorney General Letitia James said Trump failed to honor a court order that he comply “in full” with her subpoena for documents and information by March 31.
James asked that Trump be fined $10,000 a day, and perhaps more, until he complies.
“The judge’s order was crystal clear: Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office,” James said in a statement. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it.”
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and called the probe a “witch hunt.”
“We are prepared to adamantly oppose the frivolous and baseless motion filed by the attorney general’s office,” Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said in an emailed statement. “Our client has consistently complied with the many discovery requests served by the attorney general’s office over the years.”
James’ three-year probe and a parallel criminal probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have focused on whether the Trump Organization misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favorable loans and tax deductions.
Last week, James said her probe had found “significant evidence” suggesting that for more than a decade the company’s financial statements “relied on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits.”
James has questioned how the Trump Organization valued the “Trump brand,” as well as properties including golf clubs in New York and Scotland and Trump’s own penthouse apartment in midtown Manhattan’s Trump Tower.
On Feb. 17, Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York state court in Manhattan ordered Trump to produce documents covered by the subpoena by March 3, and for Trump and his adult children Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump to be questioned under oath.
Trump later obtained an extension through March 31 to produce documents. He and his children asked a state appeals court to overturn the ruling requiring their testimony.
‘THE SHIP HAS… SAILED’
In a March 31 filing, another lawyer for Trump objected that the subpoena was “grossly overbroad” and unduly burdensome, and sought information protected by attorney-client or executive privilege.
But James said on Thursday that Engoron’s order was not an “opening bid” entitling Trump to renegotiate the subpoena.
“The ship has long since sailed on Mr. Trump’s ability to raise any such objections,” she wrote.
James said that given Trump’s “purported meticulous involvement” at his company, “it seems incredible that now virtually no documents exist” suggesting he had a personal role in reviewing asset valuations.
And while James has received Trump’s personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018, she said Trump has stonewalled on providing other materials, including documents or notes in his own handwriting.
In February, Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA cut ties with him and the Trump Organization, saying it could no longer stand behind a decade of financial statements.
The Trumps have called James’ probe “a politically-motivated gambit that was commenced in bad faith,” and intended to advance her career at their expense.
James, a Democrat, is seeking reelection in November. Trump, a Republican, may seek a second White House term in 2024.
The status of Bragg’s criminal probe has been uncertain, following the resignation in February of the two senior prosecutors who had led it.
According to the New York Times, Bragg, who took office in January and inherited the criminal probe from fellow Democrat Cyrus Vance Jr, has expressed doubts about charging Trump.
In a statement on Thursday, Bragg said his office’s investigation is continuing and defended his handling of it.
“Prosecutors fulfilling their duties cannot and do not bring only cases that are ‘slam dunks,'” he said. “I pledge that the office will publicly state the conclusion of our investigation – whether we conclude our work without bringing charges, or move forward with an indictment.”