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New York’s Democratic Attorney General, who ran to run after Donald Trump, did so yesterday in the form of a civil suit.
Letitia James also cited Trump’s children — Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka — saying that the Trump organization committed all sorts of fraud in inflating real estate assets to get more favorable loans.
James used her platform — which came just seconds after President Biden completed his UN speech denouncing Russia for trying to wipe Ukraine off the map — to accuse the Trumps and the company of violating state laws.
But the reason she can only file a civil suit is that the same allegations were the subject of a criminal investigation by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, and he decided not to press charges, forcing two of his accusers to quit.
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James also said she would refer the evidence to the Justice Department.
The three-year-old civil investigation, in which Trump has argued for the Fifth, alleges that he has crossed all kinds of boundaries in manipulating the value of his properties “to unjustly enrich himself and defraud the system,” James said.
But as she spoke, the sheer complexity of the matter became apparent. All real estate companies try to make their balance sheets look better than they are and have a lot of legal leeway to do so.
The AG would have to prove that Trump Organization officials broke legal boundaries in the way they valued their properties (one example: claiming his Trump Tower apartment was three times the actual size). The Trump side will bring in its own experts who will say these were reasonable valuations — accepted by major banks — and could drag on in court for a long time.
“Another witch hunt by a racist Attorney General, Letitia James, who failed in her run for governor, got almost no public support and is now doing badly” against GOP nominee Michael Henry. (While a Trafalgar poll puts Henry 1 point ahead of James, who is black, the University of Virginia Center for Politics says the race in the blue state is uncompetitive.)
Trump also said, “She is a con man who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform, despite the city being one of the crime and murder disasters of the world under her watch!” Frankly, the attorney general’s office has nothing to do with prosecuting local crimes in New York City.
It is, of course, extraordinary that a former president should be confronted with these kinds of charges. Trump’s business success was at the heart of his first campaign, and the net worth he claims has always been an integral part of his voluminous ego.
James said she’s not trying to bankrupt the company — Trump could restructure or reorganize in another state — but she’s proposing some pretty drastic solutions. The Trump Org would not be able to buy real estate in New York for five years and would have to remove the family members from their positions, which could cripple the company.
But James showed her partisan distaste for Trump when she stated that his actions are not “the art of the deal”, but “the art of stealing”.
Meanwhile, Trump may still have reservations about asking for a special master. Raymond Dearie, a Reagan appointee who had been New York’s top federal judge, takes a no-nonsense approach to the former president’s claims. That is summed up by this great sound bite: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”
Dearie is demanding that Trump provide evidence that he somehow released all the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago. Trump has argued this rhetorically, but his lawyers have not advanced the argument in court, where knowingly false claims can be sanctioned.
Unless Trump can back up his words, the retired judge says he should be guided by the fact that, as we’ve all seen, the documents were marked classified and top secret — and some contained information from highly sensitive human sources and foreign governments.
The accounts sought by Dearie has even prompted Trump’s lawyers to acknowledge the possibility of an indictment, saying he cannot now be forced to answer questions that would be part of his defense in a criminal case.
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So the target of the Justice Department’s investigation has opened a Pandora’s box and may not like what comes out. Dearie is certainly tougher than Aileen Cannon, the Federalist Society member Trump appointed after his election loss and called the Special Master.
But, as always with Trump’s endless investigations, the notion that he is being unjustly attacked—he uses the word “persecuted”—only strengthens him with his base.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll says 52% of Republicans have polled Trump as their 2024 nominee. While that’s down from 57% a month ago, a period of intense bad publicity for the 45th president, he crushes Ron DeSantis, at 19%.
Politico says some in Trump World view the DOJ investigation as a political gift that has “allowed him to put his base together and provide him with tools to raise boatloads of money.”
Then there’s this unnamed adviser who is given anonymity for taking this photo: “I don’t think DeSantis can attempt a stunt that will dislodge Trump as the clear frontrunner in this race at this point…with Trump in the middle.” of the Democrat media-hate machine, it will be nearly impossible to dislodge him from Republican voters.”
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There was a time in journalism when an anonymous source couldn’t be quoted with things like “hate machine.”
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Of course, these polls are premature, but can anyone really doubt that Trump has a virtual lock on the Republican nomination? He says he will flee even if charged – and if so, America will face “big trouble” on a scale never seen before. However, keep in mind that he may never be charged, which would allow him to add the inquest to the list of “hoaxes.”
But whether Trump can win a general election — against Joe Biden, who just questioned his candidacy, or anyone else — remains to be seen.