Former President Donald Trump finally caught a break in what, to many of his supporters, appears to be another politically motivated investigation into him and his businesses.
A New York judge has cleared Trump of contempt charges in connection with a fraud investigation by state Attorney General Letitia James, CBS News reported.
Trump was held in contempt after refusing to hand over documents requested by James’ office in regards to the probe.
His April 25 contempt finding came after he contested a subpoena issued in December demanding that he hand over records related to his personal finances and the financing of several Trump Organization properties.
The former president, through attorneys, claimed that he did not have any materials responsive to James’ subpoena, which led to demands by the judge and by New York AG’s office that his attorneys provide explicit details about how they conducted their search.
“Although we are pleased that the court has lifted the contempt finding, we maintain that it was wholly unwarranted and improper in the first place,” Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, said in a text message. “We will push ahead with our appeal to secure justice for our client.”
Trump was fined $10,000 per day through May 6, when his attorneys first filed explanations of their attempts to search for subpoenaed documents. In the weeks since, the judge and the attorney general demanded affidavits from two dozen Trump Organization employees and attorneys in an effort to learn how Donald Trump’s eponymous company has for a decade apparently kept nearly no records on the personal finances of its namesake.
Nearly all the employees who filed affidavits described a company that has few concrete policies related to the destruction and retention of documents related to Trump’s personal finances, leaving such decisions to individuals, or in certain cases, their department heads.
Those statements largely mirrored what Trump said in his own affidavit, that “it has been my customary practice to delegate document handling and retention responsibilities to my executive assistants.”
In a June 21 filing, Andrew Amer, an attorney for James’ office, said the AG supported lifting the contempt finding, not because officials are happy with the explanations they received, but “because it is not apparent what else, if anything, [Trump] and his counsel can be ordered to do.”
Amer then indicated that Trump will be asked about company records during a court-ordered deposition that is currently scheduled for mid-July. Trump and two of his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., recently lost appeals seeking to block efforts forcing them to sit for depositions.
That said, Trump won a legal battle with New York prosecutors earlier this year.
A grand jury convened in 2021 for a span of six months to hear evidence in a criminal probe of former President Donald Trump and his companies in New York is set to expire this week.
Democratic prosecutors formed the grand jury last fall, but with no charges having been brought against the former president, the criminal investigation is “fizzling out,” according to the Washington Post.
The initial charges were brought by former New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), who thought that Trump could be guilty of manipulating the values of his properties in order to gain tax advantages and favorable loan rates. The grand jury was convened in November as part of that probe.
But the investigation continued through the end of Vance’s term with no charges brought against Trump. The case then fell to Alvin Bragg, Vance’s successor, who was left to decide whether to finish presenting evidence to the grand jury and request a decision on the allegations. He decided in early May to pause the process, however;
key problem, some of those people said, was Bragg’s concern over whether former Trump fixer Michael Cohen should be used as a witness.
Bragg has said he will announce when the investigation is over, noting that even after the special grand jury disbanded, other grand juries hearing a broad range of criminal cases in New York would be available to take action in this one if needed.
Still, the expiration of the grand jury — and the departure in February of two senior prosecutors who said Bragg was stalling the inquiry — makes any potential indictment of Trump seem unlikely, legal observers have said.