The former American president in New York, January 11, 2024 (John LAMPARSKI / AFP)
Donald Trump turned his financial fraud civil trial into a political platform again on Thursday, condemning “election interference” that would be “orchestrated” by “crook Joe Biden” four days before the start of the Republican primaries, of which he is the heavy favorite.
The former tenant of the White House (2017-2021), who dreams of returning there, is accused, along with his sons Eric and Donald Jr., of inflating the value of skyscrapers, luxury hotels or golf courses in the heart of their empire in the 2010s, the, to have increased colossally Trump Organization in order to obtain cheaper loans from banks and better insurance conditions.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a civil lawsuit alleging financial fraud in fall 2022, is seeking $370 million in damages, but the lawsuit also threatens to strip the Trump family of control of their real estate assets.
When 77-year-old Donald Trump returned to court for final arguments on Thursday, he again railed against “political interference,” a “witch hunt” and a “very unfair trial” to the press.
“My legal cases, whether civil or criminal, were all orchestrated by Joe Biden, the crook Joe Biden,” the billionaire said in a press statement after the hearing at his “Trump Building,” a historic skyscraper on Wall Street Manhattan.
“They are doing it to disrupt the elections,” he further accused.
At the hearing, the favorite of the Republican Party primaries that begin on Monday in Iowa (Midwest) wanted to give his own speech.
A request was rejected by Judge Arthur Engoron, who feared “a campaign speech” in the courtroom. Finally, the judge authorized Donald Trump to develop some arguments and he used the opportunity to attack prosecutor Letitia James, an African-American judge elected from the Democratic Party.
Error or fraud
Donald Trump in court in New York on January 11, 2024 (Charly TRIBALLEAU / POOL/AFP)
“They want to make sure I never win (the election) again. She (the attorney general) hates Trump… and if I can't talk about it, it hurts me,” he said.
The judge tried to interrupt him, but Mr. Trump replied: “You have your own agenda, you can’t listen for more than a minute.”
Since the trial began on October 2, the billionaire tribune has railed against justice every time he has entered the Manhattan courthouse, denouncing a “trial worthy of a banana republic.”
His lawyers argue a case that they believe has no legal merit.
One of them, Chris Kise, acknowledged possible “inadvertent” errors in his client's financial returns, but without requiring a “fraud conclusion.”
But for prosecutors, “the countless fraudulent schemes used to inflate the value of assets and conceal facts were so scandalous that they cannot be explained in an innocent manner,” according to a note before the hearing.
“Not a dictator”
Donald Trump speaks to the press in court in New York on January 11, 2024 (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)
In a sign of the extremely tense climate, police in Nassau County on the Long Island peninsula east of New York confirmed that Judge Engoron's home had been subjected to an unfounded threat at dawn on Thursday.
Outside the courthouse, some protesters chanted “No dictator in the United States” under surveillance from a helicopter.
During the trial, Donald Trump violently attacked the judicial team and the attorney general, and the judge imposed two fines totaling $15,000.
Unlike the criminal trials awaiting him this year, including the trial over his alleged maneuvers aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump will not risk prison time in this civil case.
But he plays big.
Even before the trial, Judge Engoron had estimated at the end of September that the prosecution had presented “conclusive evidence that the defendants had overstated the assets” of the group by “$812 million (to) $2.2 billion” between 2014 and 2021. in Donald Trump's financial documents.
Due to “repeated fraud,” he ordered the liquidation of the companies that managed his assets, such as the “Trump Tower” on 5th Avenue and the “Trump Building.”
However, the measures will be suspended on appeal.
The lawsuit involves other crimes such as insurance fraud and the fines sought by the New York Attorney General's Office, which is now seeking $370 million, a far cry from the $250 million in the 2022 lawsuit.
It is left to Judge Engoron to conclude the proceedings and determine the amount of damages and reparation. The decision will be made by January 31st.