The civil fraud brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Donald Trump opened Monday before Judge Arthur Engoron. In this non-jury trial, the former president stands accused of inflating the value of his real estate properties and other assets to obtain favorable loans and insurance.
This case should never have been filed, and Trump has several viable defenses:
1. This all about valuations of property, which is highly subjective. It’s opinion, not fact. Disparities are common. But the lenders and insurers did their own independent “due diligence.” They confirmed Trump’s valuations and found no fraud or false statements.
2. Those same banks made enormous profits from Trump
—$100 million plus interest— when he repaid all the loans. It’s hard to claim fraud when no one was harmed and there’s no victim.
3. Trump’s valuations complied with accepted General Accounting Principles…and were performed not by Trump, but by expert professionals who will testify at trial that they were valid.
4. Some of the claims are so old that they’re barred by the statute of limitations, which the judge ignored.
This is a classic case of a political prosecution. AG Letitia James ran for office on the promise of “getting Trump.” She prejudged a case of which she had no knowledge. That’s an egregious violation of the cannons of ethics governing prosecutors.
The judge seems equally biased. For example, his pronouncement that Mar-a-Lago is only worth $18 million is laughable. Florida real estate experts say the land alone is worth $500 million.
Nevertheless, the die is cast. Having already ruled against Trump last week on one of the main fraud claims, it’s obvious that Judge Engoron will find in favor of James. This will set the stage for a lengthy appeal.