A judge ruled that Donald Trump committed fraud while developing his real estate empire, which propelled him to prominence and the presidency.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled on Tuesday in a civil suit filed by New York’s attorney general that the former president and his company deceived banks, insurers, and others by grossly overvaluing his assets and inflating his net worth on documents used to make deals and secure financing.
Charges that the US political establishment is engaging in “lawfare” against the former president will be bolstered by the ruling.
The decision, which came days before the start of a non-jury trial in Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, has been described as Trump’s harshest rebuke to date.
The judge disregarded Trump’s claim that a disclaimer on his financial statements exonerated him from any misconduct.
Manhattan prosecutors considered filing a criminal case for the same conduct but ultimately decided against it, leaving James to sue Trump and seek penalties that could hinder his and his family’s ability to conduct business in the state.
The summary judgment rendered by Judge Engoron resolves the most important claim in James’ lawsuit, but six others remain.
Before deliberating on these claims and any punishments he may inflict, Engoron is scheduled to begin a bench trial on October 2nd. James seeks $250 million in penalties and a prohibition on Trump conducting business in his native state of New York. The trial could last into December, Engoron has said.
Trump’s attorneys had urged the judge to dismiss the case, but he denied their request. They argue that James was not legally permitted to submit the lawsuit because there is no evidence that Trump’s actions harmed the public. They also argued that the statute of limitations prohibited many of the lawsuit’s allegations.
These arguments fell on indifferent ears, lending further credence to allegations of lawfare used to keep the former president off the 2024 ballot.