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Trump loses bid to lift contempt charge despite swearing he can’t find subpoenaed documents

Former President Donald Trump looks on before speaking during a tour to an unfinished section of the border wall on June 30, 2021 in Pharr, Texas.Brandon Bell | Getty ImagesA New York judge Friday denied a request by lawyers for former President Donald Trump to lift a contempt of court finding despite the submission of new sworn affidavits from Trump and his attorneys that argue he has complied with a subpoena from the state attorney general.Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron said that the new affidavits attesting to Trump’s and others’ inability to locate documents sought by Attorney General Letitia James were not sufficient to purge Trump of being held in contempt.In a letter to Engoron, lawyers for James said that he should not lift the contempt order, which has a $10,000-per-day fine against Trump attached to it, until more extensive searches for the documents are conducted than the ones Trump’s lawyers said had been done.That search, the AG’s lawyers said, should include all of Trump’s mobile phones, Trump Tower in Manhattan, each of Trump’s properties where he maintains a “private residence” and “personal office,” off-site storage locations, and in “all electronic devices issued by the Trump Organization to Trump’s executive assistants.Engoron’s ruling upholding his contempt order was issued at a hearing called on such short notice that it was not publicly announced by the court.The hearing came four days after Engoron found Trump in contempt for failing to turn over documents to James by the March 31 deadline set by the judge for compliance to the subpoena.James’ civil investigation is eyeing claims that the Trump Organization improperly manipulated the stated valuations of various real estate assets for financial gain.Engoron on Tuesday ordered that Trump immediately begin paying a $10,000-per-day fine as a result of the contempt finding.CNBC PoliticsRead more of CNBC’s politics coverage:On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers filed affidavits in court under seal from themselves and Trump, saying they had been unable to locate the documents James wants to see.”In accordance and compliance with the [contempt] Order, it is respectfully requested that this Court purge the finding of civil contempt,” Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba wrote in that filing.Engoron at a hearing Monday had questioned why Trump had not previously submitted an affidavit personally but instead relied on Habba to make the claim that he could not find the documents.In his two-sentence affidavit signed in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump said that “to the best of my knowledge, I do not have any of the documents requested in the subpoena … in my personal possession.” Trump added that if there are any relevant records remaining, “I believe they would be in the possession of custody of the Trump Organization.”That echoes what his lawyer Habba previously told Engoron.Habba and another attorney from her firm, Michael Madaio, in separate affidavits filed Wednesday, said that after conducting a comprehensive search, they found that Trump did not possess any additional documents that could be provided in response to eight categories of records demanded in James’ subpoena.”Respondent’s productions and responses to the Subpoena are complete and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief,” Habba wrote. “No documents or information responsive to the Subpoena have been withheld from Respondent’s production and response. Habba earlier this week appealed Engoron’s contempt finding. That appeal has yet to be heard.Habba did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Engoron’s latest ruling.



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