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Spectator USA
Spectator USA
17 Feb 2024
Joseph Moreno

NextImg:The ruling against Trump is perverse in true New York fashion

While Donald Trump’s excessive rhetoric often evokes eye rolls, in the case of Friday’s record-setting $350 million judgment against the Trump Organization, he is spot on. “Disgraceful.” “Lawfare.” “Banana republic.” All three apply. 

It’s hard to imagine a more perverse and vindictive misuse of the justice system than that which New York attorney general Letitia James has committed. While campaigning in 2018, James promised to vigorously investigate Trump and his business. True to her word, once in the office James spent three years seizing and scouring through Trump’s tax and financial records for anything she could use as the basis for legal action. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg — no Trump fan, he — reviewed the evidence and declined criminal prosecution, but James forged ahead and ultimately brought a civil fraud action against the Trump Organization, despite the lack of a single fraud victim. 

Abetted by the clownish Judge Arthur Engoron, the two elected Democrats tag-teamed to ensure Trump never had a chance. Engoron, who declared the Trump Organization liable before the trial even began, could not even be bothered to pretend he was a neutral jurist. His eye-rolling and whispering with his clerk throughout the bench trial left little doubt he planned to award the attorney general what she asked for — even if she could not decide herself. The proposed amount was an arbitrary moving target, wherein her initial ask for $250 million somehow increased during the trial by another $120 million. 

With no victims to be made whole or other damages to be shown, Engoron could have issued an appropriate hand-slapping penalty reflective of the situation. Yet, true to form, he obediently gave James nearly all she demanded with a $364 million fine and a ruling clearly designed to drive the Trump Organization out of business. 

And how did James and Engoron reach this staggering amount? Well, since James could produce no party that was damaged by Trump’s actions she had to make it up. A supposed expert for the state testified that had Trump been more accurate in his asset valuations the terms of his bank loans would have been less favorable in the amount of $170 million. 

But does anyone really believe that if these sophisticated financial institutions had been cheated out of hundreds of millions of dollars, they would not be first in line to sue? Not only did these banks have no complaints about their dealings with the Trump Organization, they made clear they did not rely on Trump’s valuations and were in fact happy to keep doing business with him. In fact, not a single witness could provide evidence that Trump even intended to defraud his lenders. 

So whose interests was Attorney General James representing in this case? It was not the banks who lent money to the Trump Organization and were repaid under the terms negotiated. What about the people of New York? They did not lose any money — in fact, the less the Trump Organization paid in interest rates, the fewer deductions and thus more in taxes it likely paid to New York State. The fact is this case was pure politics on behalf of James — the vindictive actions of a politician wielding the law enforcement power of the state to destroy her enemy. 

James’s abuse of her position should result in her removal from office. But on the contrary, following the ruling, she was out before the cameras preening about how there “cannot be different rules for different people.” So, should real estate firms in New York — who are notorious for serially overvaluing their holdings — now watch out for future enforcement actions? Don’t hold your breath. 

New York’s population is shrinking, crime is on the rise and the tax base is eroding. James will not want to be seen as making the business environment even more hostile. No, this was a special action reserved specifically to destroy the Trump Organization. Any appellate decisions to overturn this disaster are years away. Meanwhile, James will strut around claiming she took down Donald Trump. This might be the stuff future gubernatorial campaigns are made of, but it is not to be confused with justice.