- Donald Trump’s business empire has no set document protocols, a top aide has told NY’s AG office.
- Rhona Graff’s testimony ‘cast[s] doubt’ on Trump’s own account, AG lawyers says in new filing.
- AG Letitia James wants Trump to explain further before a costly contempt-of-court order is lifted permanently.
Donald Trump’s multi-billion-dollar real estate and golf resort empire has no policy for preserving his business documents, a top aide has told the New York Attorney General’s Office.
There’s “no hard and fast protocol,” longtime assistant Rhona Graff said Friday, testifying under subpoena before the AG’s office, which has been pressing for her boss’s personal documents for two years and probing his business for three.
Instead, a new court filing shows that Graff — a three-decade Trump Organization employee — described an ad hoc, fragmented system that the AG’s office now says contradicts Trump’s own sworn account, which had deflected all responsibility for his business documents onto his executive assistants.
The difference in accounts could jeopardize the permanent lifting of a costly contempt-of-court order and cost Trump an additional $250,000 in fines.
In its filing on Monday, the AG demands still more sworn accounts on document retention from Trump executives before any agreement on lifting the contempt order.
“Ms. Graff’s testimony casts doubt on the completeness of Mr. Trump’s affidavit,” Andrew Amer, special counsel for NY AG Letitia James, said in the filing.
Monday’s filing is the latest of James’ efforts to force Trump to turn over more of a decade’s worth of contracts, asset valuations and other hard-copy documents that crossed his desk for his review, many reportedly relaying his comments and instructions via Sharpie-scrawled Post-It notes.
To date — and out of 900,000 Trump Organization documents so far turned over to the AG’s probe — only 10 were from Trump’s so-called “custodial” business files, NY Attorney General Letitia James has complained.
“There was never a mention of any such policy,” Graff answered during her deposition on Friday, when asked to describe how the Trump Organization organized and preserved Trump’s business documents, according to the latest filing in James’s ongoing battle over Trump’s personal business documents.
An inbox and outbox — but no computer
Graff said that the notoriously computer-averse Trump dealt with a CEO’s worth of paperwork through an inbox and outbox on his desk at his Fifth Avenue skyscraper; Trump was CEO until assuming the presidency and transferring leadership to his adult sons in early 2017.
The transcript filed Monday — revealing some of the subpoenaed testimony by Trump’s so-called “right hand” at the Trump Organization’s Manhattan headquarters — sheds rare light on how documents were kept.
Graff was asked during Friday’s deposition how documents arrived on Trump’s desk.
“Usually the attorney involved with it would bring it to him,” Graff answered, according to a partial transcript also filed on Monday.
“Sometimes they would be in a folder, like a legal folder and it said please put on Mr. Trump’s desk and he would review it,” Graff answered.
“Sometimes there were meetings in person. There was no hard and fast protocol for something like that.”
Graff was asked if the folder would contain a note saying “please review.”
“There could be a note on it saying — well if it was handed to me, it would be a note that says please have Mr. Trump sign, please have Mr. Trump review, and it would go into his inbox.”
Asked if she would sit with Trump while he reviewed documents, Graff said, “Rarely. Rarely. I had too much work to do on my own. I really didn’t want to spend a lot of time sitting in his office.”
Asked if Trump would write notes of his own on the documents he reviewed, Graff said “Yeah, he could have.”
She added, “I usually did not open up those folders. If they came in a folder, I didn’t think it was my position to look inside and see what it was unless I was asked to look at it.
“So the notes could be inside; I guess he made notes himself and then maybe on the outside he would have said return to so-and-so, whoever gave it to him.”
Trump would keep no copies, Graff said, explaining, “it’s the old C-word — clutter…If he needed to get the document, he knew he could call someone and say bring me a copy of it, so there wouldn’t be necessarily for him to have it.”
Asked flat out if the Trump had a document retention policy, Graff said, “Not to my knowledge … It is my understanding that each department handled documents in their own way. I don’t know what that way was.”
In demanding more detail Monday, Amer noted, “Ms. Graff confirmed that documents containing Mr. Trump’s handwritten comments would be sent to and maintained by other departments” at the Trump Organization, including its legal, accounting, hotel and golf divisions.
“I did not keep any of those documents,” Graff said.
Those missing Post-Its
The AG’s lawyers then gave Graff “a hypothetical.”
“Assume that there were notes by Mr. Trump on documents from [former CFO Allen] Weisselberg, relating to Mr. Trump’s assets, but those notes are nowhere to be found,” one AG lawyer asked.
“Given your experience, what is the likeliest explanation?”
Graff answered, “I don’t have an explanation. It wasn’t in my purview to handle the notes.”
The AG has asked Trump’s side to provide by June 13 additional affidavits “from persons with knowledge” as to what happened, department by department, to the “documents containing Mr. Trump’s handwritten comments and instructions” that left his outbox.
A lawyer handling Trump’s document subpoena battles did not immediately respond to a request for comment.