Tue. Apr 16th, 2024


Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives for the start of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 02, 2023, in New York City. — AFP

After being found liable in a fraud case of showing the bloated value of assets to secure financial gains, infuriated Donald Trump arrived to face a New York court Monday and excoriated the investigation calling it “a scam”, “a witch hunt” and attempts to “knocking him out of the presidential race”.   

Last week, Judge Arthur Engoron issued a ruling in a civil fraud case investigated by Attorney General Letitia James in which the court found Donald Trump liable for overvaluing his assets to secure better financial deals.

Under the ruling, the licenses of the Trump Organization and other companies owned by Donald Trump and his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr were also rescinded.

“This has to do with election interference, plain and simple,” Trump said after arriving for the opening day of an expected three-month trial. “What we have here is an attempt to hurt me in an election.”

Trump was criminally charged four times in a number of cases including provoking people on his false claims of rigged elections leading to the January 6 2021 riots, retaining classified documents after leaving the Oval Office and election interference and criminal racketeering to overturn the election results in Georgia.

Former US President Donald Trump attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, at a Manhattan courthouse, in New York City, on October 2, 2023. — AFP
Former US President Donald Trump attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, at a Manhattan courthouse, in New York City, on October 2, 2023. — AFP 

James is seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire as she told reporters that “justice will prevail.”

“No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law.”

Trump was not required to attend the opening day of the trial but chose to do so, taking a seat at the defence table flanked by his lawyers.

“It’s a scam. It’s a sham,” he told reporters before entering the Manhattan courtroom. “My financial statements are phenomenal.”

During a lunch break, a visibly angry Donald Trump condemned what he called a “disgraceful trial put forward by an attorney general who is corrupt.”

Former US President Donald Trump (R) attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case in New York City, on October 2, 2023. — AFP
Former US President Donald Trump (R) attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case in New York City, on October 2, 2023. — AFP

There is no jury in the trial, meaning Trump’s fate is entirely in Engoron’s hands — which did not dissuade the former president from branding him a “rogue” Democratic judge who should be “disbarred.”

The New York case is the first of a number of upcoming trials for the former president.

The former commander-in-chief is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4, 2024, on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on charges of paying hush money to an adult film star, and later in a federal court in Florida, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favour.

Donald Trump likely to lose

In the New York case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons and other Trump Organization executives lied to tax collectors, lenders and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.

The judge revoked the business licenses that allowed the Trump Organization to operate some of its New York properties, a move known as the “corporate death penalty.”

The Republican presidential forerunner — who made his reputation and fortune as a real estate mogul in the 1980s — could lose control over many of his company’s flagship properties, such as his 5th Avenue Trump Tower in Manhattan.

According to James, a Democrat, Trump’s own apartment in that building is among the spaces that were fraudulently overvalued — it was listed as three times bigger than its true size.

Another Manhattan building, at 40 Wall Street, was overvalued between $200-$300 million in financial disclosures, James alleges.

Trump’s luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — the site of the classified documents drama — and several other Trump Organization golf clubs also appear in James’s complaint.

There are likely to be dozens of witnesses called to testify at the trial, including Trump himself and three of his children, Eric, Don Jr and his oldest daughter Ivanka.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen — now an outspoken critic of the former president — and officials from Trump-linked financial institutions are also expected to appear.



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