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Donald Trump appeals $10,000-a-day contempt fine

The former president has withheld a phone, among other evidence, from New York investigators but refuses to explain the methods by which he searched for records responsive to several subpoenas.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Defying orders for him to pay $10,000 a day until he turns over records sought for a civil investigation in New York, former President Donald Trump appealed a state judge's contempt order on Wednesday.

Trump brought the appeal two days after Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ruled against Trump from the bench with a gavel bang.

Represented by attorney Alina Habba, Trump’s new filing in the Appellate Division's First Judicial Department questions whether New York's Office of the Attorney General "satisfied its burden of demonstrated (sic) by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent failed to comply with a lawful court order where Respondent both proffered a timely response to the Subpoena in accordance with the instructions set forth in the Subpoena."

The appeal also challenges whether the Attorney General’s Office sufficiently demonstrated that it was prejudiced by Trump’s response to their subpoenas, “despite failing to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that Respondents conduct was calculated to defeat, impair, impede, or prejudice the OAG's rights or remedies, particularly in light of the fact that Respondent remained willing to amend at all times.”

At Monday’s hearing, Habba said there were no responsive documents remaining for Trump to turn over, and also argued that the Attorney General’s Office had refused to engage in good-faith discussions with Trump, or even return her phone calls, prior to the filing of its contempt motion.

The appeal additionally questions whether the imposition of the $10,000 daily fine “serves any purpose as either a compensatory or coercive remedy, especially where the OAG failed to demonstrate any ascertainable loss stemming from Respondents conduct.”

Habba, who is based in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump has a golf club, filed the notice of appeal from a Manhattan office near Herald Square at 34th Street. A written copy of Engoron's decision is included in a separate entry.

New York Attorney General Letitia James quickly blasted Trump’s appeal.

“We’ve seen this playbook before,” she said in a statement. “And it has never stopped our investigation of Mr. Trump and his organization. This time is no different.”

The Republican former president denies any wrongdoing and has called the probe by New York’s Democratic state attorney general politically motivated. He has not appeared in person at any of the proceedings.

Trump released a statement earlier this month calling James, who is Black, “racist and highly partisan” and demanded she end her “never-ending Witch Hunt.”

His lawyer, Habba, has repeatedly referred to James’ investigation as a “fishing expedition.”

In his opinion ordering that Trump pay the daily contempt fine, Judge Engoron ruled that Trump had not provided enough evidence to court’s record that he conducted a thorough search for the subpoenaed documents.

“Not only did Mr. Trump fail to submit an affidavit himself, which this Court believes would have been the best practice, as he is the most obvious person to affirm where any responsive documents in his possession, custody, and control would be located, but the attorney affirmation submitted on behalf of Mr. Trump contained only conclusory statements, rather than details of a diligent search,” Engoron wrote. “Accordingly, Mr. Trump has willfully disobeyed a lawful order of this Court.”

At Monday’s in-person hearing, Kevin Wallace with the New York Attorney General’s Office likened the experience of collecting documents from Trump to “pulling teeth.”

The state investigators still want Trump to turn over two cellphones for digital forensic imaging.

Represented by Habba, Trump sued attorney general James in the Northern District of New York last December to halt her investigation, just days after her office announce that it planned to subpoena Trump to testify

A parallel criminal investigation into Trump’s business dealings by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office remains ongoing. Despite the February departures of top investigators Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, three years into the Trump Organization probe, Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg refused to announce the probe's conclusion.

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