Former President Donald Trump was cleared of contempt charges after failing to turn over documents demanded in a subpoena by the state’s attorney general, a New York judge has ruled.
Trump’s April 25 contempt finding came after he contested a December subpoena seeking records related to his personal finances and the financing of several properties. He had no material that was responsive to the subpoena, as he claims, leading to demands by the judge and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James that his attorneys provide detailed explanations of how they conducted their search.
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said in a text message that “although we are pleased that the court has lifted the contempt finding, we maintain that it was wholly unwarranted and improper in the first place. We will push ahead with our appeal to secure justice for our client.”
Through May 6, the former president was fined $10,000 per day, when his attorneys first filed explanations of their attempts to search for subpoenaed documents. The judge and the attorney general have demanded affidavits from two dozen Trump Organization employees and attorneys, in the weeks since, in an effort to learn how Donald Trump’s company has for a decade apparently kept nearly no records on the personal finances of its namesake.
A company that has few concrete policies related to the destruction and retention of documents related to Trump’s personal finances is what nearly all the employees who filed affidavits described, leaving such decisions to individuals, or in certain cases, their department heads.
Largely, those statements mirrored what Trump said in his own affidavit, that “it has been my customary practice to delegate document handling and retention responsibilities to my executive assistants.”
The executive assistants who filed affidavits did not follow any set policies, as they say. Rhona Graff, who is a longtime former assistant, said in a May 31 deposition that she often left such decisions up to other people. The heads of several departments said in affidavits filed June 17, that while they had internal document retention policies, they did not have any policies specific to documents related to Trump himself.
In a June 8 letter to the court, Habba noted that “a vast number” of documents showing Trump’s “handwritten notes” had been turned over by the Trump Organization. Habba’s letter included several photos of the golf legend Gary Player, on which Trump had written “Great,” as well as several legal and design documents in which he wrote “OK.” There was also a note from his daughter on a planning document related to a Trump property in Doral, Florida.
An attorney for James’ office said in a filing June 21 that it supported lifting the contempt finding, not because it was happy with the explanations it received, but “because it is not apparent what else, if anything, [Trump] and his counsel can be ordered to do.”
Trump will be asked about company records during a court-ordered sworn deposition scheduled for mid-July, the attorney, Andrew Amer, indicated. While Trump and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., recently lost two appeals seeking to block the depositions.
“We have every expectation that [Trump] will be examined under oath next month and will advise the Court promptly if new information regarding Respondent’s documents is gleaned from that testimony,” Amer wrote.
He also added that he is still concerned about “the apparent absence in the productions of documents one would expect to see from Mr. Trump relating to his Statements of Financial Condition.”
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