In a taste of what’s to come, a judge just fined Trump over $350 million in his fraud case

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Photo: Shutterstock

It’s only mid-February and Donald Trump is already on an expensive losing streak with the courts.

In a civil case in New York state court, Judge Arthur Engorgon fined Trump more than $350 million for inflating his net worth to get better terms on loans from lenders. Engoron also barred the ex-president from his business in New York state for the next three years. In addition, the judge fined Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. $4 million each and barred them from serving in the Trump Organization for two years.

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron said in his decision. He added, “the frauds shown here leap off the page and shock the conscience.” As just one example of the type of fraud Trump committed, he once valued the size of his Manhattan triplex based on it being 30,000 square feet in size, when it was just one-third of that.

Just last month, Trump was hit with a $83 million penalty by a jury that concluded he had defamed writer E. Jean Carroll, whom Trump had sexually assaulted in the 1990s. Because of the interest that is accruing on each of the two fines, Trump is now on the hook for something approaching half a billion dollars.

Today’s ruling is especially painful for Trump because it hits closest to his identity as a businessman. His attorneys had argued that it didn’t matter if he fudged the numbers on his loans because the banks made money anyway. However, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against Trump and his fellow defendants, argued that the banks would have made more money if the numbers were accurate because they would have charged higher rates.

Trump promises to appeal the financial portion of the ruling. The $350 million would essentially be all the cash he has, with everything else tied up in real estate. Even with the appeal, Trump has to come up with the money or a bond in the next thirty days.

Worse still, from Trump’s perspective, neither he nor his sons will run the company that bears the family name for the next several years. (James wanted the ex-president barred for life, so he got off relatively easy.) In the meantime, it’s overseen by a court-appointed monitor, who will be on the lookout for fraud and can question any business decision.

As much as a blow the decision is to Trump’s ego, it’s a bad omen for his campaign as well. Trump still has four outstanding legal cases against him. Just yesterday, the trial date was set in the criminal case involving the hush money payments he made to adult video star Stormy Daniels. Once again, Trump will be facing a jury of New Yorkers who, as in the Carroll case, are just as tough as the ex-president thinks himself to be.

The more Trump’s legal problems pile up, the more leery voters are likely to be of him as a candidate. Polls show a tight race now, but they change if Trump is convicted of a felony. At that point, Biden pulls ahead. It’s a special problem for swing state voters, half of whom wouldn’t consider Trump under such circumstances.

Trump famously said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his followers wouldn’t care. The problem for him is that his followers alone won’t get him elected. Tarnishing his image as a brilliant business tycoon — which was always a sham — harms his ego to boot. Trump has the GOP presidential nomination all but sewn up. Even as he consolidates his power, the party could hardly have picked a riskier candidate.

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