By Kara Scannell
A New York state judge ordered the Trump Organization to comply by the end of April with a subpoena from the New York attorney general as part of its long-running civil investigation into the former president and his real estate company.
“I think we can all agree we want this to end at some point for numerous reasons,” Judge Arthur Engoron said during a hearing Monday.
The judge also ordered an e-discovery firm hired to audit Trump’s compliance with the subpoena issued over two years ago to produce weekly reports identifying specific information about whose devices have been searched and what hasn’t been searched. The Trump Organization must also respond in weekly reports over any differences discovered by the firm.
Trump Organization attorneys said they would finish their compliance with the subpoena by April 15 and need an additional two weeks to certify and produce any remaining materials. The judge endorsed the schedule and said the Trump Organization could have until April 29. Haystack, the e-discovery firm, would complete its review around the same time, a representative of the firm told the judge.
The judge’s ruling was hashed out in real time during a status conference Monday morning. Both sides went back and forth with the judge and his clerk editing the proposals until a decision was agreed on. When an agreement was finally reached, the judge signed the order and shook the attorneys’ hands.
It followed arguments between lawyers for the Trump Organization and the office of New York attorney general Leticia James as the long-running investigation is coming to a head.
James alleged since initiating the investigation in 2019 that her office has uncovered “significant” evidence “indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
The attorney general’s office has previously said it found multiple misleading or fraudulent misstatements and omissions in the Trump Organization’s financial statements, which were provided to lenders, insurers and others.
“We are pleased with this order which will continue to hold Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization accountable,” James said in a statement. “Once again, it sends a clear message that no one is above the law.”
Austin Thompson, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office, told the judge there is “real urgency” to completing the production as soon as possible because a tolling agreement extending the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit involving certain conduct expires on April 30.
He added they wanted these detailed reports after learning the Trump Organization had not searched a number of individuals’ electronic devices.
He also questioned the veracity of Trump Organization’s compliance now two years and three months since the subpoena was first issued. It was “unbelievable,” he said, that only 10 documents from the custodian files of former President Donald Trump were identified.
Trump’s lawyers said the only remaining item to be searched was a cell phone belonging to Alan Garten, the top lawyer of the Trump Organization.
Amy Carlin, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said the reason why the review of that phone is taking so long is because it covers a number of years, involves personal text messages, information not responsible to the subpoena, and has information covered by attorney-client privilege.
She said the Trump Organization wasn’t delaying its compliance, but the New York attorney general’s investigation has grown and expanded.
“There are tentacles everywhere,” Carlin said.
The judge pressed Thompson about when the statute of limitations on various conduct would expire. Thompson said that statute looks back six years but due to a number of factors he believed it could be longer, but he anticipated it would be disputed by the Trump Organization.
“That’s a question that will be litigated high and low,” Thompson said.
James’ office is also seeking depositions of Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. The judge ordered them to testify but the Trumps have appealed the ruling. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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