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The Trump Civil Cases
Fraud, Sexual Assault, and Ponzi Schemes may have more impact that the criminal cases
A throwback to Tuesday’s post. Two of my questions (or something like them) were actually asked by the moderators: fentynal crossing at the border by Americans and national crime policy. My last question on candidates you’re most like and least like was similar to the “vote people off the island” question at the end. Otherwise, it was an unmitigated disaster.
Sometimes I use this newsletter to try out ideas I’m not sure I fully support. But a question occurs to me and it makes sense to flesh out the possibility.
I wrote on X today that I can’t remember a worse 10 days for a political party than the Republicans have had. Last week, the House couldn’t even pass the rules package that would let them move authorization bills forward and the Speaker sent everyone home. Matt Gaetz (or someone on his team) left a motion to vacate the chair in the bathroom. Gaetz and McCarthy called each other names. Biden-district Republicans called out the clown show (after apologizing to real clowns) forced by the Freedom Caucus. Then there was the above-mentioned yell-fest debate which taught us about curtains, sleeping with teachers, and Disney characters. That was followed on Thursday by the disastrous impeachment hearing from House Oversight. Today, Republicans passed rules of debate from a draconian Continuing Resolution which then failed to pass, with 14 Republicans voting no. The shutdown is here and McCarty’s recall petition is likely waiting in the wings.
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But there was an even bigger story that broke on Tuesday. New York Judge Arthur Engoron granted New York AG Letitia James’ motion for a summary judgment in the Trump Organization/Family civil fraud case. The judge ruled that the fraud involved was so far beyond differences of opinion in terms of overvaluing properties that there was no need to present evidence to that end. He granted James’ request to remove the business certificates of the various Trump entities in New York.
There are so many outrageous examples unearthed in this case. One that stands out to me is the value the Trump Organization had placed on the tri-plex apartment in Trump Tower. Not only had the Trump folks inflated its market value (which may be more common that we know), but they argued that the 10,000 square foot apartment was 30,000 square feet. The 40 Wall Street property was appraised in 2015 at $540 million but the Trump Org valued it at $735. They valued Mar-A-Lago as if it could be sold off as property even though years ago Trump signed off to keep it a social club in perpetuity.1 The Aberdeen, Scotland, complex was valued as if there could potentially be 2,500 homes build adjacent to the golf course even though the planning documents call for 950 holiday homes and 500 single family homes. The Trump team’s appeal of this ruling was denied yesterday and the trial begins on Monday.
Another case on the horizon is a class action suit filed by individuals who invested in American Communications Network that was promoted by Trump. The devices were providing video chat capability for those who own the specialized equipment.2 The investors learned that ACN was actually a multi-level marketing firm and had only invested because of the way Trump promoted it on The Apprentice.
People learned about the Trump brand due to this television show (except for those who read NYC tabloids). In true reality show format, it was set up for drama and produced on sets. The board room above was a prop. The business acumen of the younger members of the Trump family was asserted but not explained (that’s Ivanka and Bill, the first season winner).
These lawsuits are significant because they have the potential to demonstrate that it’s not just the television show that was a production. So was the business enterprise. That’s not even mentioning Trump University, Trump Steaks, Trump Wine, or the casino failures.
There are other civil suits against Trump personally, which will also tarnish his image. In the E. Jean Carroll sexual assault/rape/defamation cases, Trump has been found civilly liable of sexual assault and the judge, arguing that rape may not have technically occurred, the assault was egregious enough to warrant the label.
This week another judge ordered Trump to sit for a deposition regarding the defamation case filed by Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. Trump’s release of their text messages and his hounding of them resulted in their firing from the FBI. He will be required to explain his thinking, which won’t go well.
The business suits fly directly in the face of Trump’s persona as brilliant businessman who knows the Art of the Deal. As I wrote on FaceBook last week, I know how big my house is. I can’t suggest it is larger just to claim a higher collateral for a loan. I can’t argue that it will be worth a lot more once I build the family room onto the back (which I have no plans of doing). I can’t argue that someone will pay me four times the house value just because they like me.
I’m not saying that the four criminal indictments with 91 felony counts are unimportant. But people don’t understand the importance of financial reporting (Manhattan). They can get easily confused about the Presidential Records Act (Mar-A-Lago). They get distracted by arguments about free speech and incitement (DC).3 Nobody, even legal pundits on television, can succinctly explain RICO (Georgia).
But as these civil cases go forward, people may learn a lot more about the Trump business and personal world. And what they learn is not going to be good. It may impact independent voters to think long and hard about whether they can consider supporting Trump for president.4
The Trump folks suggested that it was of higher value because the Saudi’s would pay them whatever they asked (which the ruling said sounded like influence buying, not real estate investment).
FaceTime pretty much destroyed the business model.
This persists in the public imagination even though Trump was not charged with incitement over the speech on January 6th. The federal charges are about the fake elector plot and pressure on Vice President Pence.
That’s not even considering all the undemocratic stuff like accusing Gen. Milley of treason or shutting down NBC or firing the civil service.