A New York state judge ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump committed business fraud for several years by falsely inflating the value of his assets to secure better loans from banks and policies from insurance companies.
The ruling comes in a civil case brought against Trump by state Attorney General Letitia James. The attorney general had considered bringing criminal charges relating to the allegations she made against Trump, but ultimately opted not to.
James had requested to separate the case into two different trials — one that would determine whether fraud had occurred, and a second that would determine if Trump had engaged in illegal conduct to further the fraud. The ruling on Tuesday, issued by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, dealt with the former of the two questions.
Engoron agreed with James’s arguments, finding that Trump had lied to banks and insurers about his assets in order to secure better outcomes. Trump’s lawyers had defended his actions by claiming there wasn’t any harm done to those institutions, as Trump had paid back the loans, resulting in profits to the banks, for example. But Engoron dismissed that argument.
“In defendants’ world: rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote in his ruling. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
The next trial is set to commence on October 2, though Trump’s lawyers are hoping to delay the trial through an appeal.
Trump derided the ruling in a statement on his Truth Social account, calling it a “radical attack against” him and his family and describing Engoron as a “DERANGED New York State Judge.”
“My Civil Rights have been violated,” Trump further claimed, demanding that “some Appellate Court, whether Federal or State, must reverse this horrible, un-American decision.”
But the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is indisputable, James’s office said in a previous court filing in the case. The former president, his family members and others in the Trump Organization “employed a variety of deceptive schemes to grossly inflate values for many of Mr. Trump’s assets,” the attorney general said within that brief.
The result of Engoron’s order on Tuesday is that several properties owned by Trump will be removed from his management and dissolved — including, potentially, his iconic Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump could also face a $250 million fine from the state of New York as a result of the upcoming second trial.
The final financial outcome of the case, however, may be overshadowed by the political fallout from the ruling, as Trump has cast himself to voters in previous elections as a competent multinational business manager worth billions of dollars. His chances in the 2024 presidential race may be harmed somewhat by Engoron’s decision.
The ruling “undermine[s] Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House,” The New York Times reported.
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