CONTEMPT: New York State AG Letitia James seeks $10K daily fine against Trump
As the investigation into Donald Trump and the Trump Organization drags on, New York Attorney General Letitia James is tired of waiting. And so are we. As multiple civil, legal, and criminal investigations close in on Donald Trump, time – and patience – are waning.
The seemingly Teflon Don has become a master at evasion. From his taxes to his freedom, the litigator-in-chief has been stringing the public— and the legal process — along, continuing to stonewall prosecutors and ignore judges’ rulings.
In February, Trump was ordered to turn over documents to the Attorney General’s office by March 3rd. That date was extended to March 31st, at the agreement of both parties. But Trump’s attorneys have since declared their inability to comply because the documents “can’t be found.”
Leticia James has had enough. She asked a court on Thursday to find Trump in contempt and to authorize a fine of $10,000 daily until he complies with the court order and turns over the requested documents. James dismisses any claim that the judge’s order is up for interpretation.
“Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant moments to my office. Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law,” James said.
Since James announced her investigation into Trump’s finances, he and his attorneys have tried, unsuccessfully, to get the case put on ice. In December, they filed a failed lawsuit to halt the investigation.
James has been vocal and transparent in sharing the case’s progress. Evidence is mounting. In February, James’ office claimed in a statement that they have:
“Collected evidence showing Donald J. Trump and Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading statements to obtain economic benefit.”
This statement came after one of Trump’s main accounting firms, Mazars USA, sent a letter recanting almost a decade of financial statements from 2011 to 2020 that were sent from William Kelly at Mazars to Alan Garten (an attorney for the Trump Organization), denouncing Trump’s financial records as unreliable – and severing the professional relationship.
You can read Mazar’s letter here.
A sign of hope for those skeptical that accountability will ever come for the twice-impeached, six-times-bankrupt businessman.
The civil case is being conducted concurrently with a criminal probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Originally headed by former Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, the investigations seemed to be making significant progress with last summer’s indictment of Trump Organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg. With the Trump Organization since 1973, Weisselberg was instrumental in executing the tax evasion scheme that Trump used as a business model for inflation and deflation of his assets. It is a scheme going back at least 15 years.
However, the progress made by both District Attorney’s offices has been halted by the election of the new Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg. Though Bragg initially said that he was committed to prosecuting the Trump case, that seems to have stalled. Coupled with the sudden resignation of top prosecutors Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, the delay in the indictment of Trump raised eyebrows until today when Bragg announced that the investigation is active and continuing.
It should be noted that Dunne was General Counsel in the Weisselberg case, and, at his arraignment, Weisselberg agreed to co-operate with the investigation.
Trump is used to buying, stalling, and evading his way out of accountability. In his decades of business, he has been hit with penalties from the Treasury Department in 1998 and 2015 that were the highest ever for violating money laundering regulations. He was sanctioned by the New York State Lobbying Commission in 2000. He has settled for millions in suits brought by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the New York Attorney General’s office. But with cash drying up, debts being called in, and his new status as a persona non grata on the traditional lending circuit, the ability to pay five-figure daily fines may not be an option for the on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy ex-President.
While Bragg may — or may not — be dragging his feet, Letitia James is moving full steam ahead, undeterred by the stalling tactics of Trump and his legal team. It’s almost as if she knows – the evidence is on her side.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
Original reporting by Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum at The New York Times.
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