Trump’s NY fraud trial starts today. Here’s why it matters, even though the judge already found fraud. – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

Trump’s NY fraud trial starts today. Here’s why it matters, even though the judge already found fraud.

Donald Trump and his two eldest sons, Eric Trump, left, and Donald Trump, Jr., during Trump’s first go-around on the presidential campaign trail.

Donald Trump and his two eldest sons, Eric Trump, left, and Donald Trump, Jr., during Trump’s first go-around on the presidential campaign trail.

New York’s massive, $250 million fraud lawsuit against Donald Trump and Trump Org goes to trial Monday.
The judge has already found Trump inflated his worth in banking documents by billions of dollars.
The trial will determine final penalties, and if Trump and his sons intentionally broke state laws.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” asked one of Donald Trump’s lead fraud lawyers, Christopher Kise, standing last week before the Manhattan judge who, one day prior, had found the former president liable for fraud and ordered the dissolution of his company.

“But what, in the court’s mind, does this trial now look like?” Kise asked. “I’m just, me, wondering what’s the point?”

We may all well ask the same thing. But it turns out there’s plenty left to the Trump Organization fraud case, on a legal, political, and sheer entertainment level.

Here are some of the reasons that the non-jury civil trial starting Monday on New York Attorney General Letitia James $250 million business-fraud lawsuit is still worth our attention.

There will be spectacle

Meaning real-live Trumps, four of them, testifying under court order in a public courtroom

Trump himself is planning to attend opening statements Monday, though his attendance in this civil trial is optional. Then comes testimony.

Ivanka Trump, the former president’s biggest bank-loan deal maker, has the number 14 post position on the AG’s witness list, and will take the stand first among the Trumps.

No longer a plaintiff thanks to an appellate-level statute-of-limitations ruling, Ivanka Trump must now defend her father and brothers. Much remains at stake. 

Trump and his sons face additional civil penalties for allegedly violating three state laws, namely, falsifying business records, conspiring to file false financial statements, and insurance fraud.

(For those following along in their hymnals, see pages 209-212 here, in the lawsuit for those yet-resolved issues, listed as “causes of action” numbers 2 through 7.)

Some weeks later, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Donald J. Trump must take the stand, in that order, and in post positions 25-27 out of the AG’s total of 28 direct-case witnesses.

Which leads us to…

The boys have their say

Last week’s decision by state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron leaves much unclear – including what Trump Organization assets, specifically, will have to be sold. But one thing that was clear about the decision is that fraud – lots of it  – was found on the part of Donald Trump.

Left largely unremarked on, though, is that Trump’s two sons were also found liable for fraud, as were two longstanding senior Trump Organization executives, its current comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, and its ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg.

When Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump take the stand, and defend themselves against the AG’s remaining allegations, they’ll step out of the long, wide shadow their father has cast over this case for the past four years.

Donald Trump Jr., left, and Eric Trump.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The attorney general alleges that from 2016 to 2021, as executive vice presidents, both brothers signed banking statements – called guarantor compliance certificates – promising that their father’s fraudulently-inflated annual statements of net worth were just fine.

James has countered that these annual statements were actually inflated by as much as $3.6 billion.

Eric Trump, who manages his father’s company day to day, will likely be singled out for his leading role in the alleged over-valuation of the family’s Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester County.

Donald Trump, Jr., who oversees the Trump Organization’s property portfolio, has been responsible since 2017 for issuing those annual statements of his father’s net worth, the ones that the judge last week found to be fraudulent.

3.  A matter of intent

So those six, yet-decided “causes of action?” They all require the attorney general to prove intent.

In other words, the judge has already found Trump’s 2014 through 2021 financial statements to banks and insurers fraudulently inflated his wealth.

Now the attorney general’s lawyers must further prove that Trump, his sons, Weisselberg and McConney submitted these statements intentionally, in order to defraud banks and insurers, and in doing so broke the specific New York civil laws.

All that mucking around in a witnesses’ intentions will make for highly interesting testimony.  

Donald Trump, for instance, will likely be grilled on a peculiar, and in retrospect short-sighted, argument he made when ordered to sit for an April deposition before the attorney general.

“I never felt that these statements would be taken very seriously,” he told the AG of the years of the annual statements of worth, which remain  at the center of the case.

4. More penalties, please 

“I think you’ve only reached two of the relief items that the attorney general has asked for,” Kevin Wallace, an attorney for James, told the judge last week.

He was explaining a major reason why the AG sees her work as not yet done – and why both sides will fight hard as the trial plays out over the next two, possibly three months.

The AG has so far only won two of the “relief items,” or penalties, her lawsuit seeks, namely last week’s revocation of Trump’s New York operating licenses, and the appointment, in November, of a monitor. (The AG never asked that assets be “dissolved” via a receiver, a penalty the judge last week took it upon himself to set.) 

But if the attorney general can prove what she hopes to at this trial – namely that all of the defendants intentionally violated state business laws – that will up the ante on what further penalties the judge sets next.

5. The future of Trump’s empire is at stake

The remaining “relief items” the AG seeks are not minor consolation prizes. They include a cash blood-letting and an almost biblical-sounding generational banishment of the father and his eldest sons from the New York real-estate world.

She wants the judge to permanently ban not just Trump but Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. from ever serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation.

She wants the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust – which currently holds the Trump Organization’s assets, with Trump as sole beneficiary – to be run by “new independent trustees.” For the past two years, the sole trustee has been Donald Trump, Jr.

She also wants the judge to bar Trump and the Trump Organization for five years from buying commercial property in the state or applying for loans from a New York-licensed bank.

Finally, she wants $250 million in cash penalties, or however much the judge sees fit. 

That’s a lot of punishment. But in ordering that yet-quantified dissolution of assets last week, Engoron has already shown an ability to swat the Trumps harder than even the attorney general herself has asked for.

Read the original article on Business Insider