Shortly after the government filed its case in October, Trump attacked: He falsely declared to reporters that the feds had no evidence he and his father discriminated against minorities, but instead were attempting to force them to lease to welfare recipients who couldn’t pay their rent.
The family’s attempts to slow down the federal case were at times nonsensical. Trump submitted an affidavit contending that the government had engaged in some unspecified wrongdoing by releasing statements to the press on the day it brought the case without first having any “formal communications” with him; he contended that he’d learned of the complaint only while listening to his car radio that morning. But Trump’s sworn statement was a lie. Court records show that the government had filed its complaint at 10 a.m. and phoned him almost immediately afterward. The government later notified the media with a press release.
Prosecutors responded to Trump’s affidavit by showing he had fudged his claim by using the term “formal communication”—an acknowledgment, they said, that he had received what only he would characterize as an informal notification—which they described as an intentional effort to mislead the court and the public. But the allegation slowed the case; it required government lawyers to appear in court to shoot down Trump’s false charge.
The Trumps had more delaying tactics. Trump announced in a press conference that his family and their company were bringing a $100 million countersuit against the government for libel; anonymous tenants and community leaders, he said, had been calling and writing letters expressing shock at the government’s “outrageous lies.” Once again, motions, replies and hearings followed. Once again, the court threw out the Trump allegations.
For months, the Trumps ignored the government’s discovery demands, even though court procedure in a civil or criminal case requires each side to produce relevant documents in a timely manner. This allows for the plaintiffs or prosecutors to develop more evidence in support of their claims, as well as for the defense to gather proof to fight the case against them. When litigation is filed or even contemplated, scrupulous lawyers and corporations immediately impose document-retention programs or require that any shredding or disposing of records be halted. Courts have handed down severe sanctions or even criminal charges of obstruction of justice against executives and companies that destroyed records because they knew they were going to be sued.
Yet when the government filed its standard discovery requests, the Trumps reacted as though seeking that information was outrageous. They argued in court that prosecutors had no case and wanted to riffle through corporate files on a fishing expedition. Once again, this led to more delays, more replies, more hearings…and another specious argument thrown out of court.
Six months after the original filing, the case was nowhere because the Trumps had repeatedly ignored the deadlines to produce records and answers to questions, known as interrogatories. When a government attorney finally telephoned a Trump lawyer to find out why, he was told the Trumps had not even begun preparing their answers and had no plans to do so. The Trumps also postponed and blocked depositions, refused to provide a description of their records, as required, and would not turn over any documents.