Former US President Donald Trump could be banned from the real estate business in New York, a potentially devastating blow to his real estate empire that propelled him to fame long before he won the White House.
Trump is accused of obtaining loans with false financial statements for several years. After a heated trial that lasted more than three months, a Manhattan court is expected to announce its decision this week.
The New York fraud case is just one of several ongoing trials against Trump, even as he inches closer to the Republican presidential nomination following his decisive victory in the Iowa caucus and in the New Hampshire primaries earlier this month.
Here’s what we know about this civil case and how it could affect Trump’s presidential campaign:
What is it about ?
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil suit against the former president, The Trump Organization, and senior company officials on September 21, 2023 – although an investigation into the business dealings of the former president has been underway for approximately three years.
In the depositJames accused Trump and Trump Organization officials — including his children, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. — of “knowingly and intentionally” creating more than 200 overly inflated financial valuations between 2011 and 2021 that helped the company to obtain favorable loans from banks and insurance companies to the tune of $250 million.
These actions violated New York’s Executive Anti-Fraud Act, James wrote in his lawsuit, seeking a $250 million fine against Trump.
Senior Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney were also named as defendants, along with Trump-owned companies and entities such as 40 Wall Street, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district. Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, are co-defendants in the case.
What did the judge say about Trump?
In a September 27, 2023, summary judgment that essentially resolved the lawsuit’s main claims, Presiding Judge Arthur Engoron of Manhattan Supreme Court ruled that Trump committed years of fraud by massively inflating the value of his real estate holdings to lenders. His Mar-a-Lago estate, for example, was found to be inflated to about 2,300 percent of its actual price in a statement.
Judge Engoron dissolved some companies owned by the former president, also ordered the revocation of The Trump Organization’s business license and appointed an independent monitor to oversee the company.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and appealed the initial decision. In October, an appeals court temporarily stayed the part of the ruling relating to the company’s dissolution. Trump’s lawyers have argued that about 1,000 employees could be affected. James’ team said it was prepared to suspend enforcement of the law pending a final decision.
At the follow-up trial to resolve other allegations in the attorney general’s lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that it was politically motivated; that its accountants were responsible for the false financial statements; and that no particular person or entity was harmed by these statements.
Could this affect Trump’s political campaign?
Trump’s presidential campaign has played up the civil lawsuit — and the myriad legal challenges facing the Republican front-runner, as the November presidential election approaches.
The former president has appeared in courts he is not legally required to attend, giving impassioned speeches to rally his supporters behind opponents trying to block his re-election, targeting not only him but also his supporters.
He also took advantage of these court appearances to attack state officials. Trump accused James, New York’s attorney general, of targeting him for political reasons, calling her a “political hack” who won his job because she promised to go after him.
Despite the judge’s refusal, Trump spoke in court at the conclusion of the fraud trials on January 11, saying it was a “fraud on me.”
“We’re in a situation where I’m an innocent man, I’ve been persecuted by someone running for office,” Trump said, referring to James, a Democrat who tried to run for governor of New York in the 2022 election but then dropped out. . “They want to make sure I don’t win again,” he added.
Throughout the three-month trial, Trump insulted the judge toward his supporters, saying Engoron was a biased “Trump hater.” He also attacked Engoron lawyer Allison Greenfield on his social media platform Truth Social, calling her “politically biased and out of control.”
Judge Engoron silenced the former president and subsequently fined him $15,000 for violating the order.
Could Trump face criminal sanctions?
Civil cases like this usually result in monetary penalties and restraining orders called injunctions, unlike criminal cases which often result in prison sentences.
James, in his lawsuit against Trump, had recommended punishment: that the former president and his children be stripped of their leadership roles within the Trump Organization, and that Trump and the company be barred from any real estate purchases in New York. York for the next five years.
Additionally, the Attorney General recommended that Trump and the Trump Organization be barred from accessing loans for five years and that independent monitors and administrators be appointed for the Trump Organization.
As Judge Engoron’s final decision looms, it will likely complement his previous rulings that some of Trump’s companies will have their licenses revoked, some will be dissolved and others will be independently monitored.