A New York judge has found former US president Donald Trump in contempt of court and set in motion US$10,000 ($14,000) daily fines for failing to adequately respond to a subpoena issued by the state’s attorney general as part of a civil investigation into his business dealings.
Judge Arthur Engoron said a contempt finding was appropriate because Mr Trump and his lawyers hadn’t shown they had conducted a proper search for records sought by the subpoena.
“Mr Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously,” Judge Engoron said in a Manhattan courtroom that was packed with reporters, but absent of Mr Trump.
“I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 a day” until the terms of the subpoena are met.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, had asked the court to hold Mr Trump in contempt yesterday after he failed to produce any documents to satisfy a March 31 court-imposed deadline to meet the terms of the subpoena.
Mr Trump, a Republican, has been fighting Ms James in court over her investigation, which he has called a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
During oral arguments on Monday, Mr Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said that “Donald Trump does not believe he is above the law.”
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Ms Habba said in a statement that the ruling will be appealed.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision. All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago,” she said.
Ms James has been conducting a lengthy investigation into the Trump Organisation, the former president’s family company, centring around what she has claimed is a pattern of misleading banks and tax authorities about the value of his properties.
“Today, justice prevailed,” Ms James said in a release after Judge Engoron’s ruling.
“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.”
Mr Trump’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Amer said the investigation was being hampered “because we don’t have evidence from the person at the top of this organisation.”
And he said the failure to turn documents over in response to the subpoena was “effectively Mr Trump thumbing his nose at this court’s order.”