Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

'Intransigence!' 'Subterfuge!' NY AG Letitia James has more choice words for how Donald Trump treats her subpoenas

'Intransigence!' 'Subterfuge!' NY AG Letitia James has more choice words for how Donald Trump treats her subpoenas

In the latest war-of-words volley, James asked a judge to 'coerce' Trump into turning over his personal business documents. The battle goes to court Monday.

Intransigence! Subterfuge! Procedural gamesmanship!

These are some of the choice descriptors that an increasingly impatient-sounding New York Attorney General Letitia James used in a court filing Friday night, to describe how Donald Trump has been treating her subpoenas.

"The Court should put an end to Mr. Trump's intransigence and subterfuge," her lawyers wrote to a Manhattan judge, using some of the most heated language yet in her two-year pursuit of the former president's personal business documents.

Lawyers for the AG and for Trump — who insists he's already turned over everything he's got — will argue the issue face to face in court at 10 a.m. on Monday morning. James has asked state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron to fine Trump $10,000 a day for blowing off a March 31 document-turnover deadline.

For now, though, their sometimes vitriolic war of words has been fought in court filings and tweeted taunts.

Some Easter bon-mots

"The racist and highly partisan Attorney General of New York State," Trump called James on Monday. He'd flung similar names in a sulky-sounding "Happy Easter" message to the Attorney General the day before.

"May she remain healthy," came the former president's Eastertide greeting, "despite the fact that she will continue to drive business out of New York while at the same time keeping crime, death, and destruction in New York!"

On Monday night, Trump doubled down, calling James' $10,000-a-day fine threat a blatant "publicity stunt" in court papers of his own filed by Alina Habba, his lawyer.

Habba argued that the 10 personal business documents that the Trump Organization has already turned over are all he has for James. The company has performed a "diligent" search, Habba said. Even if there were additional documents, they would be held by the Trump Organization, she said. It would be up to them to turn these over, she said, not Trump.

And the Trump Organization has already turned over some 900,000 documents, Trump's lawyers have argued, a figure that is not in dispute.

James wants Trump 'coerced'

But in papers signed by AG Special Litigation Counsel Andrew Amer, James countered Friday night that the Trump Organization's compliance with her document subpoenas has been incomplete and "plagued by its own delays."

The filing asks the judge to hold Trump in contempt of court and set an "appropriate" fine — the $10,000-a-day figure is a suggestion — so he may be "coerced to comply in full" with the AG's demands.

Compliance would mean "conducting searches of all electronic devices and other electronically stored repositories," the filing says, "including searches of Mr. Trump's mobile devices already identified."

A court-ordered search by document-search firm HaystackID sheds no light on those devices, the filing says.

"According to HaystackID's April 18, 2022 report, there is no ongoing effort to search for responsive material from Mr. Trump's electronic devices," the filing says. "The HaystackID report identifies two mobile phones for Mr. Trump, but indicates it is "Unknown" whether the devices have been collected for discovery."

The filing continues, "The report also indicates that Mr. Trump's longtime executive assistant, Rhona Graff, has a laptop and
desktop computer
located at Trump Tower, but neither one has been collected for discovery, so they have not been searched either."

Ten documents are not enough

Compliance would also mean Trump "conducting searches of all relevant physical locations" — meaning wherever his personal business documents may be, the filing says.

The former president needs to turn over more than "the paltry 10 custodial documents of Mr. Trump already produced by the Trump Organization."

That includes whatever is in Trump's "chron" files, the filing says. Those would be hardcopy documents stored in chronological order after having crossed Trump's desk, as described to James' office in a deposition last summer by Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten.

"Mr. Trump's hard copy calendars" are also missing, the filing notes, as are "files located in cabinets outside Mr. Trump's office," and in "the storage room by Mr. Trump's office," and in "the file cabinets located on the 25th and 26th floors," the filing adds — apparent references to the Trump Organization headquarters in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The filing finally demands Trump identify "any responsive documents that have been destroyed or are no longer available with details on how and why they were not maintained."

A three-year effort

James has been investigating Trump's Manhattan-based, international real estate business for three years now.

The probe is civil in nature and is examining what James describes as rampant, self-serving "misstatements" in how Trump valued his properties when applying for loans and tax breaks over the years.

A civil probe could result in a lawsuit that seeks fines and even the dissolution of his business, as James has sought successfully with the Trump Foundation and without success against the NRA.

James has been asking for Trump's personal business documents for two years, first through a general subpoena to the Trump Organization, and, since December, through a document subpoena she issued directly to Trump.

James and the Trumps are simultaneously fighting over additional subpoenas demanding that Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. sit for depositions in her civil probe. That matter will be argued in an appellate court in Manhattan on May 11.

James is also conducting a separate criminal investigation of Trump's business, a probe that has so far proceeded without the glimpses of activity provided by public litigation.

A parallel criminal probe into Trump's business, by the Manhattan DA's office, is "ongoing," new DA Alvin Bragg has said, despite the February resignation of its two lead prosecutors after Bragg's decision not to seek an indictment of Trump.

Sources have told Insider that under Bragg's predecessor, Cyrus Vance, the probe had focused primarily on alleged financial wrongdoing by Trump, and that little else had been teed up to pursue against other defendants.

But the Trump Organization, and its former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, remain under indictment in a payroll tax scheme; they have pleaded not guilty and are currently asking a judge to toss the case.


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