A visibly upset Donald Trump appeared in a New York courtroom for the start of a bank fraud trial that has already condemned his real estate empire to death.
Shortly after 10 a.m., Trump and his son Eric entered the courthouse, surrounded by his large team of defense attorneys and a cadre of Secret Service agents. Trump, dressed in a dark blue suit and scowling, walked slowly to his seat at the front of the courtroom. New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose investigators will argue that the former president’s lies violated laws designed to maintain a fair and honest market, sat in the front row behind her team of lawyers who have been looking into Trump’s falsified personal financial reports more than three years.
Judge Arthur F. Engoron, who oversaw bitter court battles during the investigation and had to repeatedly reprimand defense attorneys – and even fined the former president himself $110,000 – began the long-awaited trial with a hearty “good morning.” .
“One thing I know a lot about is the legal definition of fraud,” Engoron began, explaining the history of the state’s Executive Law § 63(12), the law the AG is now using to combat the Trumps’ business lies to proceed offers.
The trial, scheduled to run from October 2 through the end of December, caps an intensive effort by federal law enforcement to show how Trump significantly inflated the values of his Monopoly properties across the country to secure better bank loans and insurance policies. On the eve of the trial, the judge handed the AG a huge victory by declaring that Trump had actually engaged in bank fraud by stripping several of the mogul’s companies of their business licenses and stripping him of his life’s work by placing the famed Trump Organization into receivership have asked.
But the trial will continue anyway, as the AG is still seeking to punish the Trump family and top executives with fines of $250 million or more.
On Monday, Trump appeared for the first time before Engoron, who has publicly railed against the judge for months.
The trial also marks the beginning of a long series of court battles that threaten to send the former president to prison, drain his bank accounts and derail his campaign to return to the White House in 2024. Once this civil trial ends, he will have to appear in federal court in New York for a second retrial of a rape case, a criminal trial in Washington for an attempted coup in 2021, a criminal trial in Manhattan for forging business papers, and a criminal trial in South Florida for hoarding secrets Documents in his oceanfront mansion at Mar-a-Lago.
Although Trump was not required to appear in person this week, he was at risk of being charged with contempt of court in another lawsuit – against his former lawyer Michael Cohen. He claimed he would not be available to testify in the case on Monday and Tuesday, citing the AG’s bank fraud trial. He is therefore expected to appear in New York City on both days.
In a sense, the attorney general’s office is picking up where the Manhattan district attorney left off. Last year, a New York jury convicted the Trump Organization of tax fraud – resulting in a $1.6 million fine. But that was a relative slap on the wrist for the company. Only his chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was in the dreaded Rikers Island prison.
In contrast, government investigators began a presentation Monday portraying the company’s top executives as the villains behind another round of fraud – this time falsifying Trump’s personal financial reports from 2011 to 2021 by claiming areas that didn’t exist and Inflated assets that existed.
Kevin Wallace, the AG’s senior enforcement counsel, noted how Trump and his sons, company executives Don Jr. and Eric, confirmed to Deutsche Bank that its financial reports were accurate even though they were not.
“None of the defendants accept responsibility,” Wallace said, showing excerpts from statements in which investigators questioned Trump’s adult sons and Weisselberg.