Trump in trouble: Faces daily fines and contempt citations for aides
Steve Ruark/AP

WASHINGTON—Former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump is in legal trouble over his taxes—again. And that’s not the only legal tangle he faces. Two more of his top aides were cited for contempt of Congress, and his lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has been suspended in his home state of New York.

Trump’s most pressing problem is that New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James wants State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Energon in Manhattan to hit him with a $10,000 daily fine for civil contempt.

Trump, James said, refuses to obey Judge Engeron’s Feb. 22 order to turn over key financial records for the AG’s ongoing investigation of tax fraud involving Trump, his properties, his corporation, and his kids.

“The judge’s order was crystal clear: Donald J. Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office,” she said. “Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”

His #2 problem is the House voted 220-203 to cite two top Trump regime aides, Peter Navarro and Daniel Scavino, for contempt of Congress. They defied subpoenas from the select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, Trumpite insurrection and invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

That’s even though Navarro, in a recent book, openly says Trump plotted a coup to keep himself in the White House.

And Trump himself, in an April 7 45-minute telephone interview with the Washington Post, said he wanted to lead the crowd to Capitol Hill, as he promised in a pre-invasion rally near the White House, “but the Secret Service said I couldn’t go.”

Instead, Trump returned to the mansion and watched the invasion on television. And in a faint echo of Watergate, seven hours of Trump’s phone records, including calls from scared and threatened lawmakers, pleading with him to call the invaders off, have disappeared.

The two Republicans on the seven-person panel, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, joined all 218 voting Democrats in approving for the contempt citations, which now go to the Justice Department for action. The other 203 Republicans voted “no.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Prince William County, Va. Circuit Court on April 1 disbarred Jonathan Moseley, a lawyer for 11 of the invaders, all members of the Oath Keepers. That court said Moseley committed numerous offenses, including lack of “meritorious claims and contentions,” lack of “candor toward the tribunal” and “unauthorized practice of law.”

All the moves put added pressure on current Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland to move more quickly up the investigative and prosecutorial ladder towards Trump and the toadies who helped him plan and urge execution of the attempted coup last Jan. 6.

In her 25-page filing seeking the contempt fines, James disclosed that despite court orders, Trump hasn’t turned over either his 2010 federal tax return or the returns from 2018 through now. He’s handed over the others in between.

Trump also won’t turn over documents showing how much the insurance he took out on various properties, including his Briarcliff Manor, N.J., golf club—or how he arrived at its value.

Overvaluation of Trump’s properties for publicity purposes and for tax easements is one of the key points of James’s investigation of Trump, his firm—which his kids nominally run—and his dealings.

If Trump “purged”—James’s word—any documents from his files either in New York or at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida, he’d better convincingly explain why, James’s court filing adds.

The House debate took much of the day on April 6, and was predictably marked by GOP caterwauling about the probe of the invasion—and Democratic references to a Republican National Committee that the Trumpite insurrection was “legitimate political discourse.”

Cheney and Kinzinger were, of course, the GOP  exceptions. They shouldered much of the argument for the contempt of court citations from the House.

“The election claims made by Donald Trump were so frivolous and so unfounded that the president’s lead lawyer,” Giuliani, “did not just lose these cases, he lost his license to practice law,” Cheney said. Giuliani was actually suspended, not formally disbarred.

“When you hear my [Republican] colleagues make political, partisan attacks on the select committee, I hope all of us can remember some basic facts,” she added.

Through 800 interviews with witnesses and thousands of documents, “We learned President Trump and his team were warned in advance, and repeatedly, the efforts they undertook to overturn the 2020 election would violate the law and our Constitution and they were warned Jan.  6 could, and likely would turn violent.

“And they were told repeatedly by our state and federal courts, by our Justice Department, and by agencies of our intelligence community, the allegations of widespread fraud, sufficient to overturn an election, were false and were unsupported by the evidence.”

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., a down-the-line Trumpite whom Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to name to the committee, defended Navarro and Scavino as dedicated family men with kids. Scavino, Banks added, asked for specificity in the panel’s subpoena request for his documents.

“There is no doubt the insurrection on January 6 itself was a danger to our democracy,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., retorted. “How can one of our two political parties be so craven for short-term partisan gain that it is willing to encourage and condone insurrection?”

Trump’s social media communications chief “Scavino sometimes helped shape his tweets,” including tweets encouraging the insurrectionists, added Kinzinger. “On December 19, Trump retweeted a video that urged viewers to ‘fight for Trump.’ The January 6 attack was then just 2-1⁄2 weeks away.

“Why did Donald Trump retweet that particular message? Dan Scavino could give us the inside scoop.

While Trump and his ‘stop the steal’ gaggle were working hard to subvert the Constitution and steal the election for themselves, President Trump retweeted, after QAnon already had, a video called, ‘How to Steal an Election.’”

Scavino, who was in the Oval Office with Trump on January 6, “won’t risk” telling the panel what Trump said then and why he retweeted the video, Kinzinger said.

“According to many reports, Scavino worked with the former president to use social media to spread lies regarding nonexistent election fraud and to recruit a violent, angry mob to D.C.,” said House Select Committee member Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the only member of the panel who was on Capitol Hill—as a staffer—for the House Judiciary Committee’s 1974 votes to impeach Richard Nixon over Watergate.

“Scavino also followed violent, extremist social media on behalf of Trump. We have reason to believe doing so provided Mr. Scavino with explicit advance warnings of the violence that was to occur on January 6. He may have shared these warnings” with Trump. “We need to ask him about that.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.