In civil trial for fraud in New York, Trump denounces “falsehood” of justice – 03/10/2023 at 11:29

Donald Trump speaks to the press upon his arrival at a court in New York, Monday, October 2, 2023 (AFP / Ed JONES)

Donald Trump, who along with two of his sons are accused of overvaluing their real estate assets by billions of dollars in the 2000s, on Monday attacked the “sham” of justice embodied by a “racist” prosecutor and “rogue” judge.

The former US president, who is on civil trial in New York on fraud charges, immediately adopted a defiant tone.

Dark blue suit, blue tie, closed face, body slightly bent and head slightly tucked on his shoulders, the billionaire spent half his first day surrounded by his two lawyers, Chris Case and Alina Haba, sitting across from New York Judge Arthur. Engoron, who will preside over the proceedings for weeks.

Upon his arrival at the Manhattan courthouse, in front of a forest of cameras, the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, accused the plaintiff in this case, which is demanding $250 million, of being “racist” and of being a “horror show.” .

He described this civil trial, one of the first in a long series that will continue in 2024, as a “fraud” and “sham.”

At midday, he left the courtroom to denounce the “scandalous situation” and attack the “rogue judge” in front of the press.

Outside, about a dozen supporters and opponents confront each other, separated by police.

– ‘Real estate empire’ –

This civil trial, which could threaten the businessman’s economic empire, especially his family group The Trump Organization, began with initial statements from both sides.

For Trump’s part, Casey defended “the president (who) built one of the most successful real estate empires on the planet” and denied even the slightest accounting impropriety. His colleague, Ms. Heba, insisted that her powerful client had not committed a “fraud” but was practicing “real estate.”

“It’s not about conspiracy, it’s about doing business,” she said.

Supporters and opponents of Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower in New York, August 9, 2022 (AFP/Ed JONES)

In the opposing camp, New York State’s first judge, Ms. James, an African-American elected official in the Democratic Party who is the equivalent of a local attorney general, assured the press that “justice will prevail” and accused the real estate mogul of “repeated fraud” and “cheating” for years.

Kevin Wallace, a member of his team, reiterated that the fraud had already been legally proven and that the people targeted in the civil complaint “overstated the value of their assets by between $812 million and $2.2 billion annually” by 2014 to 2021.

Including when Mr. Trump was in the White House (2017-2021).

-No prison-

The 77-year-old politician will not receive a prison sentence in the civil case.

But his trial will provide a preview of the legal events that are likely to derail his campaign for the Republican nomination, which dreams of returning to the White House.

Donald Trump, who is criminally accused in four cases, which have not yet harmed his popularity with the Republican base, must appear as of March 4 before a federal court in Washington. He is accused of trying to reverse the result of the presidential election won by Joe Biden in November 2020.

The New York trial suddenly took on significant stakes last week when Judge Engoron ruled in a temporary order that “repeated fraud” had been proven and that the New York State Attorney General’s Office had indeed proven the “overstatement” of Trump’s assets.

– ‘Big hit’ –

Accordingly, this judge ordered the withdrawal of business licenses in the state of New York from Donald Trump and his sons Eric and Donald Jr., directors of the Trump Organization, as well as the forfeiture of the companies targeted by the complaint, so that they are entrusted to the liquidators.

Will Thomas, a professor of business law at the University of Michigan, said that these sanctions, if implemented, would deal a “huge blow to Donald Trump’s ability to do business in New York State.”

The man who made his fortune in real estate and casinos in the 1980s would then lose control of several flagship companies in his group, such as Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Donald Trump (centre), Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (left) in Marietta, United States, January 4, 2021 (AFP / MANDEL NGAN)

These properties are at the heart of Ms. James’s accusations: The rooftop area of ​​the businessman’s Trump Tower triplex had tripled and the building at 40 Wall Street was overvalued by $200 million to $300 million in financial filings.

The trial is expected to be technical and dozens of witnesses are expected to appear, including three of Trump’s children, Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, who were initially targeted in the complaint but were not ultimately tried, or the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who served a term. He is in prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud in another case targeting the group.

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