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New York AG sues Trump and three of his children, alleging business fraud

Just when it seemed Donald Trump's legal troubles couldn't get any worse, New York's attorney general has filed a new fraud case against the Republican.


Donald Trump’s list of legal troubles is amazingly long. The Republican is currently facing a criminal investigation, for example, for having brought highly sensitive classified information to his glorified country club and refusing to give it back. There are also criminal and civil allegations surrounding Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack and the broader effort to overturn an American presidential election.

But that’s just the start. There’s also an ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia related to his efforts to interfere with election results. There’s also an apparent criminal investigation surrounding his special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

But today, the former president’s troubles got much worse. NBC News reported:

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a sweeping lawsuit Wednesday against former President Donald Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump Organization in connection with her years-long civil investigation into the company’s business practices.

It was in March 2019 when the Democratic state attorney general first opened a civil investigation into the Trump Organization, and in the months that followed James left no doubt that the probe had uncovered systemic wrongdoing.

In fact, earlier this year, the New York AG declared in a court filing, “Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit.”

In August, the former president had an opportunity to convince state prosecutors that he didn’t commit fraud, but instead he pleaded the Fifth — by some accounts, more than 440 times.

That was six weeks ago. This morning, James declared at a press conference that the former president, three of his adult children, and his business operation engaged in “intentional and deliberate fraud.”

It’s worth emphasizing that this is a civil case, not a criminal case. That said, I’d recommend keeping a couple of things in mind. First, Trump’s earlier civil cases were hardly irrelevant: His fake “university” and fraudulent charity, for example, were brought down as a result of civil litigation.

Second, the New York attorney general said this morning that Trump World’s practices ran afoul of federal criminal law — and she’s referring those violations to federal law enforcement for additional scrutiny.

As for the allegations themselves, James’ office filed a 220-page lawsuit, which detailed extensive efforts by the former president to, among other things, inflate his personal net worth in order to secure more favorable loans. From the NBC News report:

James alleges years of large-scale fraud, saying the Trump Organization inflated the values of its properties in seeking bank loans or deflated them to pay less taxes. Her office has said in court filings that it “uncovered substantial evidence establishing numerous misrepresentations” in the company’s financial statements to banks, insurers and the IRS.

To that end, the state attorney general’s office, pointing to more than 200 instances of fraud over 10 years, is seeking roughly $250 million in civil penalties.

Stepping back, let’s not forget that much of Trump’s notoriety as a public figure — the reputation he used to launch a political career that ultimately put him in the White House — is based on the idea that he had great success in the private sector. Millions of voters backed the Republican because they were convinced of his prowess as a wealthy businessman.

But it now appears obvious that none of this was real.

Four years ago, The New York Times published a devastating report, exposing evidence of “dubious tax schemes” and “outright fraud” that Trump used to get ahead. The findings painted a picture in which the then-president, far from a self-made man, relied heavily on legally dubious family handouts.

It was the first of three brutal reports on his financial history, leaving little doubt that he’s spent much of his adult life meandering between failures and fraudulent endeavors.

Today’s news serves as a brutal bookend to those revelations. Not only has Trump relied on fraud to advance his interests, according to the allegations from the New York attorney general’s office, he also oversaw a business that repeatedly and brazenly committed fraud to bolster its finances.

Those who believed that the Republican was some kind of genius businessman fell for a con.

Postscript: A Trump spokesperson sent this statement to NBC News on behalf of Alina Habba, one of the attorneys representing the former president in this case: “Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda. It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place. We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”