Judge ‘surprised’ by Trump’s claim he has no documents sought in investigation

NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) – A New York judge said he was surprised on Friday that Donald Trump, a man he described as perhaps the world’s most famous real estate developer, was not in able to provide the documents requested as part of an investigation into the Trump Organization, his family business.

Judge Arthur Engoron of New York State Court in Manhattan told a virtual hearing he would continue to hold the former US president in contempt of court and fine him $10,000 a day despite a request from Trump’s attorney to lift both orders.

“It’s Donald Trump, arguably the most famous real estate developer in the world,” Judge said. “I’m surprised he doesn’t seem to have any documents; they’re all with the organization.”

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On Monday, Engoron issued the orders regarding Trump’s failure to comply with a subpoena for documents from New York Attorney General Letitia James. On Wednesday, Trump signed an affidavit saying he did not believe he had any relevant documents and, if there were documents, the Trump Organization would have them.

On Friday, Engoron, who read Trump’s affidavit during the hearing, said the document bore “his inimitable signature” in what appeared to be a Sharpie. But he said he lacked useful details about where Trump kept his records.

In order to purge the contempt finding, Trump would have to submit an affidavit swearing where his files were, how they were stored and who had access to them, as well as stating whether he had turned over his personal electronic devices for research and imaging, a the judge later said in a written order.

During the hearing, Engoron focused on the small pieces of paper with an adhesive strip on one side that Trump is known to use. “He’s famous for his post-its,” Judge said. “When he wants something done, he puts a post-it on it. I don’t think we got a post-it.”

Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten testified as part of the attorney general’s investigation that Trump used post-it notes to communicate with employees, court records show.

But Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said Trump had no post-it notes.

“You can fine us 10 months, but you won’t get any more documents from Donald Trump,” Habba said. “He doesn’t have the documents you want.”

James says his investigation has already uncovered evidence that the Trump Organization – which manages hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world – provided banks and tax authorities with misleading financing information in order to obtain financial benefits such as favorable loans and tax breaks. .

Engoron said he would consider Habba’s request to end the fine. “But if you don’t hear from me, time is still running out,” he said.

A Republican, Trump denies wrongdoing and calls the investigation politically motivated. James is a Democrat. Habba said on Friday that she would continue to appeal both the contempt order and the fine following Engoron’s oral decision.

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Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis

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