Asked by the New York attorney general to turn over personal cellphones to aid her investigation of alleged fraud at his company, Donald Trump said he had lost them.
In an affidavit filed as part of an attempt to stop the accrual of fines for non-compliance with subpoenas, a $10,000 daily penalty which has reached $150,000, the former president said: “I am not currently in possession of any Trump Organization-issued phones, computers or similar devices.
“I believe the last phone or device I was issued by the Trump Organization was a cellphone in 2015. I no longer have the cellphone in my possession and I am not aware of its current location.
“Since January 1, 2010, I previously owned two flip phones and a Samsung mobile phone. I do not have the two flips [sic] phones in my possession and I do not know their current whereabouts.”
Trump said he took the Samsung with him to the White House when he was sworn in as president in 2017, but “it was taken from me at some point while I was president. I do not have the Samsung in my possession and I do not know its current whereabouts.”
Trump also said he now owns “two personal mobile phones … an iPhone which I have owned for several years and is for my personal use [and] a new phone which I was recently given by Truth Social just last week”.
Truth Social is Trump’s own social media platform, set up to counter what he claims to be censorship by Twitter and Facebook, which banned him after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.
Trump has not been a prodigious poster of Truth Social, which has struggled. Nonetheless, in his affidavit, Trump said he used his new phone “exclusively for posting on Truth Social and no other purpose. I have never placed or received a call, sent or received a text message, or used this phone in any other manner.”
Trump also said he submitted his iPhone to the New York investigation in late March, to be “searched and imaged”, then did so again in early May, “in an abundance of caution”.
He added: “Since at least January 1, 2010, it has been my customary practice to not communicate via email, text message, or other digital methods of communication. I also do not use a computer for work-related purposes.”
The civil investigation of Trump’s financial affairs in New York is only one form of legal jeopardy faced by the former president.
In one high-profile case, a grand jury has been picked in Fulton county, Georgia, where a prosecutor is examining Trump’s attempts to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden in the southern state.
Trump has said investigations of his financial and political affairs are politically motivated witch-hunts.
Nonetheless, Trump’s affidavit and others filed by his lawyers in the New York case described extensive searches for devices and documents at the Trump Organization in New York, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump’s claim to have lost his phones prompted widespread skepticism online.
Preet Bharara, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York who famously refused to take a call from Trump before Trump fired him, wrote: “Let he who has never lost four cellphones cast the first stone.”