5 juiciest takeaways from the Tish James lawsuit against Donald Trump


“James plays hardball,” Manhattan defense attorney Michael Shapiro said.

Here are some of POLITICO’s best takeaways from the lawsuit James filed:

A Trump lawsuit over James’ suit? Don’t bet on it

Legal analysts are already debating the intricacies of the lawsuit and whether or not it will hold up in court. His civil suit could fly despite the fact that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. is reluctant to file criminal charges for the same behavior.

On the one hand, James need only prove that Trump’s conduct was fraudulent or illegal by a preponderance of evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt as would be required in a criminal case. If it seems more likely than not that Trump had knowledge of fake valuations or instructed his subordinates to inflate assets and income, that could be enough for James to prevail.

Trump could also be hurt by his many Fifth Amendment invocations, which can be used against him in the civil suit.

But chances are the true legal merits of AG’s lawsuit will never be tested in court. Both parties have strong incentives to reach a settlement. Pursuing the case to its conclusion could take years and there is no guarantee that a judge will agree to grant all the remedies requested by the AG. Trump appears to have an even stronger incentive to compromise, since the punitive sanctions James is seeking could almost amount to a death sentence for his business empire.

Trump’s lawyers have already made a settlement proposal which James has rejected, but his aides said his office is not seeking any immediate legal action against Trump, such as an injunction that would quickly bankrupt him in New York. And the GA appeared to underline her willingness to face the heavy sentence she offered on Wednesday.

“Our doors are always open,” James told reporters.

Is “everyone doing it” a defense for Trump?

Trump’s legal team has suggested that any positive analysis of Trump’s financial condition in statements submitted to banks is consistent with practice in the real estate and bank finance worlds.

Indeed, his lawyers argued that the bankers were not actually deceived by the alleged asset inflation, because they produced more conservative internal valuations before approving loans to Trump.

Trump himself launched a version of the “no harm, no fault” defense on his social media site Truth on Wednesday, saying the banks and insurance companies involved “were fully paid, made a lot of money and had never had to complain about me.”

However, James’ office appears to take the position that whether or not the banks were deceived is irrelevant to the legal case – that the alleged intent to deceive on the part of Trump, his children and its principal collaborators in order to obtain a financial advantage is sufficient to constitute a violation of the law.

James also said that whether the other parties to Trump’s deals suffered a loss is also irrelevant, so she can pursue those violations even if the banks profited from the deals.

James is trying to have the suit heard by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who issued orders requiring Trump and his family members to sit for depositions in the investigation. The judge seemed largely unsympathetic to Trump, so if the case ends up staying with him, the former president could be roughed up.

FBI Mar-a-Lago raid makes an appearance

In a section titled “Ongoing Litigation and Conspiracy,” James’s suit notes that some of the documents seized by the FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, 2022 – revealed in federal court filings for include tax records – may have been concealed from his investigators.

“Documents regarding tax and accounting information would appear to respond to OAG subpoenas, but no such documents for Mr. Trump have been produced,” according to the lawsuit.

James referred to a statement form from Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, who claimed she had thoroughly searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago office and storage areas for all relevant documents. to James’ investigation. His search came just days before the Justice Department issued a subpoena for any case containing classified marks held at Mar-a-Lago.

Russia, Russia, Russia

Some long-lost figures examined by congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller also make cameos in James’ trial. In a section alleging fraud against insurers and underwriters, the suit argues that Trump refused to disclose “any circumstances involving Russia and the 2016 presidential election” during a January 10, 2017 meeting with underwriters intended to assess potential risks amid Trump’s efforts to restructure his limited liability policies.

But later underwriters flagged a range of Russia-related issues as potential causes for concern, including the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who offered research of the opposition on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. claimed he had no interest in the news and it became a chapter that was largely consigned to history after the release of the Mueller report.

The lawsuit goes on to offer a mega-list of investigations that Trump would later be subjected to — by Congress, Mueller, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, and other entities — pointing out that “none of the inquiries and investigations…or the circumstances giving rise to these inquiries and investigations, had already been disclosed by Trump Organization staff to underwriters during renewal negotiations.

Was Trump’s $100 Million DC Hotel Windfall Based on Lies?

Trump’s unique marquee property in DC that has become a key location for Trump’s aides and allies to see and be seen during his presidency, the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, is a huge part of – about $100 million — of the $250 million worth of the newly filed lawsuit.

The attorney general’s complaint says Trump used a grossly inflated personal financial statement essentially to induce Deutsche Bank to provide $170 million in financing for the luxury hotel project at a lower interest rate than he would have billed without the backing of Trump’s personal fortune for the effort.

Trump sold the hotel in May for a tidy profit that many weren’t expecting: $100 million. However, any interest rate difference between what Trump paid and what the AG says he should have paid does not come close to that number. Yet James takes an aggressive stance that Trump should shell out every penny he (and his family members) have earned on the entire hotel investment.

“I don’t know how the government has a right to all of this,” said Duncan Levin, former federal prosecutor and head of asset forfeiture at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “The calculation of the amount to which the government is entitled is sometimes complicated.”


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