Oh, snap ! Excuse my schadenfreude….
Those of us who follow the news have been hearing about New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation of the Trump Organization for what seems like a century. Yesterday, we finally got to see the results of that methodical investigation–and they were devastating.
As the saying goes, she brought the receipts.
What made the announcement of James’ suit even more satisfying was the fact that it followed by just a few hours the smackdown of Judge Cannon’s widely derided decision by the Court of Appeals. (It is worth noting that two of the judges on that three-judge panel were Trump appointees.) As Robert Hubbell wrote in his newsletter, “It is difficult to convey the extraordinary rebuke delivered by the 11th Circuit to Judge Cannon.”
Hubbell also quoted from Letitia James’ verbal presentation of her 225 page complaint at the press conference.
For too long, powerful, wealthy people in this country have operated as if the rules do not apply to them. Donald Trump stands out as among the most egregious examples of this misconduct. With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system. . . . Mr. Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends. There are not two sets of laws for people in this country; we must hold former presidents to the same standards as everyday Americans. I will continue to ensure that no one is able to evade the law, because no one is above it.
In all my years of practicing law, I never saw a 225 page complaint; James has used those pages to enumerate in great detail an absolutely breathtaking amount of fraud, employed consistently over many years. Those of you who want to read the entire document can do so here.
Among the “inaccuracies” Trump supplied to banks, taxing agencies and insurance companies were the following:
- Trump’s apartment in NY was approximately 10,000 square feet. That’s really big– but of course, not as big as Trump’s ego. In his financial statements (intended to be relied upon by lenders) he claimed it was 30,000 square feet. That isn’t an inadvertent measurement error.
- Trump purchased undeveloped land in Scotland for $12 million dollars. Eight years later, he claimed it was worth $435 million. (A contemporaneous appraisal found that–if the land was developed–it would be worth $21 million.
- Then there was the golf course Trump purchased on the west coast near Los Angeles. He granted a conservation easement to the state, and an appraisal valued the golf course at $18 million. When Trump claimed a tax deduction for the grant of easement, he claimed the property was worth $25 million–a value that reduced his taxes to the IRS by millions of dollars.
- 40 Wall Street, a downtown building owned by the Trump Organization, was valued at $200 million on a tax filing in 2010. In the very next year, Trump valued it at an astronomical $524 million.
There is much, much more, and the sheer chutzpah is amazing. James’ office lacks the authority to bring criminal charges, so her case is civil, but she announced that she has made criminal referrals to both the U.S. Attorney for New York and the IRS.
Although James’ case is civil, it’s worth noting that she is seeking what you might call a “corporate death penalty” for the Trump Organization. Among the various remedies she’s seeking are cancellation of corporate certificates (without which businesses can’t operate), the appointment of an independent monitor, an order barring Trump and the Trump Organization from doing loan, real estate and other transactions relating to New York for five years, and permanently barring Trump, three of his adult children (I bet Tiffany is grateful for those years of cold shouldering) from serving as officers or directors of any New York businesses.
And since this is a civil suit, James is free to point to the hundreds of times Donald and his son Eric refused to answer questions and took refuge behind the Fifth Amendment. (In a criminal proceeding, prosecutors cannot draw inferences from the fact that a defendant claimed the Fifth; in civil suits, however, the rule is different.)
Vanity Fair ran an article under the headline: “How Screwed Are Donald Trump and his Adult Children?”I think the answer is: royally. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving family of grifters.
Pass the popcorn.