New York attorney general accuses Trump of civil fraud, but under cloud of partisanship


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New York’s Democratic attorney general, who ran for office vowing to take on Donald Trump, did so yesterday in the form of a civil suit.

Letitia James also named Trump’s children – Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka – saying the Trump Organization had committed all kinds of fraud by inflating real estate assets to get better loans.

James used his platform – appearing just seconds after President Biden ended his speech at the UN denouncing Russia for trying to wipe Ukraine off the map – to accuse the Trumps and the company of violating the state laws.

But the reason she can only file a civil suit is that the same allegations were investigated criminally by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, and he decided not to press charges, prompting two of his prosecutors to resign.

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New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference in her New York office.
(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

James also said she would turn over the evidence to the Department of Justice.

The three-year civil investigation, in which Trump pleaded fifth, alleges he crossed all kinds of lines by manipulating his property values ​​”to enrich himself unjustly and cheat the system,” James said.

But as she spoke, the sheer complexity of the case became apparent. All real estate companies try to make their balance sheets look better than they are and have substantial leeway to do so legally.

The AG would have to prove that Trump Organization officials broke legal boundaries in how they valued their properties (one example: claiming his apartment in Trump Tower was three times its actual size). The Trump side will bring in their own experts who will say these were reasonable valuations – which were accepted by the big banks – and it could drag on in court for a long time.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“Another witch hunt by a racist Attorney General, Letitia James, who failed in her gubernatorial race, garnering almost no public support, and is now doing poorly” against GOP candidate Michael Henry. (While a Trafalgar poll puts Henry 1 point ahead of James, who is black, the University of Virginia Center for Politics says the blue state race is uncompetitive.)

Trump also said, “He’s a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform, despite the city being one of the world’s crime and murder disasters under his watch!” In all honesty, the state attorney general’s office has nothing to do with prosecuting local crimes in New York.

For a former president to face these kinds of accusations is obviously extraordinary. Trump’s business success was central to his first campaign, and the net worth he boasts has always been an integral part of his considerable ego.

James said she’s not trying to put the company out of business — Trump can restructure or reorganize in another state — but she’s offering some pretty drastic remedies. The Trump Org could not buy real estate in New York for five years and would have to remove family members from their jobs, which could cripple the business.

But James let her partisan distaste for Trump shine through when she said his actions are not “the art of the market” but “the art of theft”.

Meanwhile, Trump may still have doubts about the request for a special master. Raymond Dearie, a Reagan appointee who had served as the top federal judge in New York, takes a pragmatic approach to the former president’s claims. It’s summed up by this killer sonic phrase: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Dearie demands that Trump provide proof that he somehow declassified all the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago. Trump has argued this rhetorically, but his lawyers have not made the argument in court, where knowingly false allegations can be sanctioned.

Unless Trump can back up his claims, the retired judge says he must be guided by the fact that the documents, as we’ve all seen, were marked secret and top secret – and some contain information from highly sensitive human sources and foreign governments. .

The accounting sought by Dearie has even prompted Trump’s lawyers to acknowledge the possibility of an indictment, saying he cannot be compelled to answer questions now that would form part of his defense in a criminal case.

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So the target of the Justice Department investigation has opened a Pandora’s box and might not like what comes out of it. Dearie is certainly tougher than Aileen Cannon, the member of the Federalist Society whom Trump appointed after his electoral defeat and who appointed the special master.

But as always with endless investigations into Trump, the idea that he is being unjustly attacked – he uses the word “persecuted” – only strengthens him with his base.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll indicates that 52% of Republicans polled support Trump as their 2024 candidate. While that’s down from 57% a month ago, a time of very poor publicity for the 45th president, he crushes Ron DeSantis, with 19%.

Politico says some in Trump World view the DOJ investigation as a political giveaway that “allowed him to coalesce his base and provided him with tools to raise tons of money.”

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil inquest on August 10, 2022 in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil inquest on August 10, 2022 in New York City.
(James Devaney/GC Images)

Then there’s this unnamed adviser who was granted anonymity to take this photo: “I don’t think there’s a stunt DeSantis can attempt that will unseat Trump as the undisputed frontrunner in this race at this point. .. with Trump at the center of the Democratic media hate machine, it will be nearly impossible to dislodge him from Republican voters.”

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There was a time in journalism when an anonymous source couldn’t be quoted as saying things like “hate machine”.

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Of course, these polls are premature, but can anyone really doubt that Trump has a virtual lock on the Republican nomination? He says he will show up even if he is indicted – and if he is, America will face “big problems” on a scale never seen before. Keep in mind, however, that he may never be charged, which would allow him to add Justice’s investigation to the “hoaxes” list.

But whether Trump can win a general election — against Joe Biden, who has just cast doubt on his candidacy, or against anyone else — remains to be seen.


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