Former President Donald Trump's request to lift a contempt of court ruling against him was denied Friday after he filed a sworn affidavit earlier in the day.
Trump swore that he does not possess any of the documents subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, that are at the heart of the $10,000-per-day civil contempt of court decision against him, but a New York judge ruled that was insufficient.
"Mr. Trump's personal affidavit is completely devoid of any useful detail," wrote New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron. "Notably it fails to state where he kept his files, how his files were stored in the regular course of business, who had access to such files, what, if any, the retention policy was for such files, and, importantly where he believes the files are located."
TRUMP APPEALS $10,000-A-DAY CIVIL CONTEMPT RULING
Engoron called on Trump's legal team to submit more detailed information in the affidavit, keeping the contempt of court order in place, including the $10,000-a-day fine, until Trump complies. The former president was found in civil contempt of court Monday and ordered to pay $10,000 for each day he failed to comply with the subpoena request from James. Trump's lawyers filed a notice of appeal against that finding Wednesday, arguing he sufficiently complied with the subpoena request.
"To the best of my knowledge, I do not have any of the documents requested in the subpoena dated December 1, 2021, in my personal possession, and if there are any documents responsive to the subpoena I believe they would be in the possession or custody of the Trump Organization," Trump swore in a two-paragraph statement filed Friday.
Andrew Amer, a lawyer for the attorney general's office, said Trump's affidavit is insufficient to overturn the contempt of court finding, CBS News reported. He called for more information on the search Trump lawyer Alina Habba conducted.
"Ms. Habba should identify each of Mr. Trump's properties where he maintains a 'private residence' and/or 'personal office' and describe in detail the efforts undertaken to search files maintained at each such location for responsive documents," Amer said.
On Monday, Engoron pointed to the fact that the Trump team had not submitted a sworn statement from Trump that he turned over all the documents that had been subpoenaed.
"I feel like there's an 800-pound gorilla in the room, and that is, why don't we have an affidavit from him?" Engoron asked during the hearing. "There is a difference between saying something and saying something under oath."
A prior court ruling had compelled Trump to comply with a subpoena request from James's office by March 31. On the day of the deadline, however, Trump's lawyers brought forth fresh objections and did not turn over the documents, the attorney general said. Engoron held Trump in civil contempt of court Monday for failing to comply with that ruling.
Habba claimed she conducted a search for the requested documents and interviewed Trump himself in an effort to comply with the document request. She insisted he did not possess any of the documents James is after and referred the attorney general's office to the Trump Organization.
The attorney general is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly manipulated its asset valuations for tax and business benefit. The investigation began after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that the company had repeatedly done so. Cohen has since publicly claimed that Trump possesses the documents James seeks.
James wants some of Trump's files located in filing cabinets near his office and information about three mobile devices that he used, according to court documents. Habba claimed the documents in that cabinet were not reviewed during her effort to collect the documents because Trump was not involved in the preparation of his financial statements, James's office said, per the New York Times. James's office expressed skepticism about that claim.
“Today’s events have made it overwhelmingly clear that this case no longer has anything to do with the proper application of legal principles governing discovery disclosure,” Habba told Law & Crime on Friday. “The Court completely disregarded the detailed affidavits that demonstrate the meticulous efforts undertaken to effectuate this search. This Court has improperly held my client in contempt for a violation that he did not commit solely because the OAG declared it ‘insufficient’ without any basis. The tactics employed by this Court, including the dramatic pounding of the gavel, the statements directed to our client from the bench, and direct comments to the press have reduced this hearing to the likes of a public spectacle. We will zealously prosecute our appeal of the Court’s improper application of both law and fact.”
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In February, Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump were ordered to appear for a deposition. They filed a notice of appeal but did not challenge the document request, which enabled the court to compel him to comply.
Trump has lambasted the investigation and accused James of harboring political motivations. He also denied the accusations against him and filed a lawsuit in federal court to suspend James's investigation in a separate case, a matter that is pending in court.