5 questions that reverberate from Trump’s civil fraud trial

5 questions that reverberate from Trump’s civil fraud trial

Reverberations are being felt several days after the massive judgment against former President Trump in his New York civil fraud trial.

The headline from that decision was an award of almost $355 million against Trump from Judge Arthur Engoron, who found Trump had habitually inflated the value of his properties in order to secure favorable terms on loans.

The judge also complained about the extent to which Trump and the other defendants showed a “complete lack of contrition and remorse.”

Trump has said he will appeal the ruling. He also called the case a “witch hunt … the likes of which our country has never seen before.”

The ruling has also become part of a bigger debate about the business atmosphere in New York.

“Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary told Fox Business on Monday that he saw “no rationale” for the ruling and said he “would never invest in New York now.”

Here are answers to some of the biggest questions from the ruling.

Was Trump’s conduct a victimless crime?

This is one of the most contentious points in the case.

Trump has repeatedly made the point that his lenders were paid back and that the deals under the microscope made money.

The most prominent lender affected by the case, Deutsche Bank, made no complaint about the conduct of Trump or the Trump Organization.

It’s understandable, then, that skepticism about the fairness of the ruling extends beyond Trump’s hardcore MAGA supporters.

But there is another side to the story.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has contended Deutsche Bank lost out on almost $170 million in interest because of Trump’s false assertions.

While a major bank does not make for the most sympathetic victim in the eyes of the public, it is plainly true that any state — and especially New York — has an interest in maintaining the basic integrity of its economic system.

Law professor Orin Kerr, writing at Reason, argued the “victimless crime” argument was essentially bogus.

Kerr drew an analogy with drunk driving laws, asserting that government has a legitimate interest in discouraging reckless behavior, regardless of whether anyone is hurt by a specific instance of that behavior.

Was the case political?

Soon after the ruling came out, Trump hit James as a “totally corrupt attorney general” and contended President Biden was using the case to hobble a political opponent.

It’s not exactly clear what Trump means by “corrupt” in James’s case, and there is no suggestion she benefited financially from the case.

It is true, however, that she is a longtime political foe of the former president.

Campaigning to become attorney general in 2018, James called Trump a “con man” and “carnival barker,” according to The Associated Press. The AP also noted her pledge to bring new scrutiny to the then-president’s “real estate dealings.”

Yet, at the same time, Engoron asserted in his 92-page ruling that the “defendants submitted blatantly false financial data … resulting in fraudulent financial statements. When confronted at trial with the statements, defendants’ fact and expert witnesses simply denied reality.”

So, is a case that exposes real fraud invalidated simply because the attorney general taking the case is a political enemy of the defendant?

Will the case have ramifications for businesses in New York?

The argument made by figures such as O’Leary is that the ruling will have a chilling effect, discouraging investment in New York.

“Every investor is worried, because where is the victim?” O’Leary asked Neil Cavuto during his Fox Business interview. “Who lost the money? This is some arbitrary decision a judge made.”

O’Leary said this was especially damaging to New York because, in his mind, it is already on its way to being a “loser state” because of high taxes and excessive regulation.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) had made a similar argument Sunday, asserting during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the ruling was “going to be a threat to really just all businesses, including those who are currently operating in New York.”

Setting aside the broader question of New York taxes and regulation, however, the argument that the Trump verdict will have a big effect seems tenuous.

If the contention is that the powers-that-be targeted Trump specifically, and did so in an aberrational way, why would the CEOs of other, unrelated companies make decisions based upon it?

How rare was the ruling?

The sheer size of the ruling against Trump is highly unusual.

Some experts also note that, while James has taken other cases aimed at cracking down on shady business practices, those typically revolve around instances where regular citizens get manipulated.

“The attorney general’s job is to protect people who can’t protect themselves,” Syracuse University law professor Gregory Germain told Reuters on Friday. “Here, we’re dealing with very sophisticated lenders who are fully capable of protecting themselves and haven’t asked the attorney general for help.”

The judge did back off the idea of barring Trump from conducting business in New York permanently.

But Trump is also barred from running a corporation in New York for three years.

Will the verdict have a negative impact on Trump’s presidential campaign?

Almost certainly not.

Last year, as four criminal indictments were unveiled against Trump, his lead in the GOP primary widened.

The civil fraud ruling could spur a further rallying-around by Republican voters.

The criminal cases against Trump might have a real impact at a general election, if any of them resulted in conviction.

But the civil fraud case is more likely to hit his ego and his bank balance than his political fortunes.

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