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Trump pushes for delay in fraud trial ruling. Letitia James says she’s prepared to seize his assets

The former president is on the hook for more than $450m after losing a civil fraud trial in New York

Alex Woodward
Thursday 22 February 2024 17:37 GMT
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Donald Trump ordered to pay more than $350m in massive fraud trial ruling

Attorneys for Donald Trump are pushing the judge overseeing a massive fraud case against the former president to delay a more than $355m judgment against him.

New York County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron isn’t convinced.

Mr Trump’s legal team is arguing that New York Attorney General Letitia James – whose office launched a three-year investigation and lawsuit that sparked a months-long civil trial against Mr Trump and his co-defendants – should have consulted with his lawyers on the terms of the judgment.

In an email exchange with Trump family attorney Clifford Robert on Wednesday, Judge Engoron said there is “no need for a motion or conference” to review the terms of his judgment because it already mirrors the bulk of the attorney general’s proposal.

Ms James’s office fired back on Thursday, telling the judge and Mr Trump’s attorneys that there is “no room for further debate”. Mr Trump and his co-defendants also have “no basis” for pausing the judgment, which the court has “already declined to grant,” according to state attorney Andrew Amer.

On Thursday, the judge told attorney that “the proposed judgment accurately reflects the spirit and letter” of last week’s decision.

“Accordingly, I intend to sign the proposed judgment this morning and to send it to the Clerk for further processing,” he wrote.

In another message on Thursday, after another objection from Mr Robert, the judge wrote: “You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay. I am confident that the Appellate Division will protect your appellate rights.”

Meanwhile, daily interest on Mr Trump’s post-trial judgment is nearly $88,000, on a total judgment reaching nearly $455m as of 22 February.

Judge Engoron’s 92-page ruling finds Mr Trump, his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, former Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, and companies behind Mr Trump’s brand-building properties liable for falsely inflating his net worth and assets to secure favourable financing terms over a decade.

The defendants were also found liable for intentionally falsifying business records, conspiring to do so, and “repeatedly and persistently” issuing false financial statements.

Mr Trump is barred from serving in top roles at any New York company, including his own, for three years. His adult sons – including Eric Trump, who effectively is running the Trump Organization – are also on the hook for $4m each and face two-year bans from business, throwing into doubt the Trump family’s ability to run a vital part of its empire.

The total “disgorgement” owed back to the state among all the defendants – money that is effectively forfeited as “ill-gotten gains” – amounts to roughly $364m, plus at least $100m in interest, which increases by more than $87,000 a day.

Donald Trump appears at a shoe conference in Philadelphia one day after losing a civil fraud trial finding him liable for more than $355m. (Getty Images)

A draft of the judgment filed by Ms James’s office largely mirrors the decision from Judge Engoron and adds that a statutory interest rate of 9 per cent per year applies.

Mr Robert argued that the attorney general rushed the process and that if the judge signs off on the decision no action should be taken for at least 30 days.

Mr Trump’s attorney Alina Habba said they are preparing to appeal, which would essentially require the former president to pay the full judgment in the form of a deposit with the court or pay a surety bond to put up the costs for him, but at a significant premium that he won’t ever be able to recoup.

Ms James, meanwhile, said her office is prepared to seize his assets, if necessary.

“If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets,” she told ABC News this week.

She said her office is “prepared to make sure that the judgment is paid to New Yorkers, and yes, I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day,” referencing one of Mr Trump’s star properties that relied on fraudulently inflated statements of financial condition used to secure favourable loans.

Ms James also rejected Mr Trump’s repeated claims that there were “no victims” in the case, pointing to his companies’ abilities to pay back loans and that the banks “made money” from the transactions.

“Financial frauds are not victimless crimes. He engaged in this massive amount of fraud. It wasn’t just a simple mistake, a slight oversight, the variations are wildly exaggerated, and the extent of the fraud was staggering,” Ms James told ABC. If average New Yorkers went into a bank and submitted false documents, the government would throw the book at them, and the same should be true for former presidents.”

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