Team Trump Prepares for Doom at New York Bank Fraud Trial

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

On the heels of yesterday’s critical court ruling ordering the death of the fabled Trump Organization, lawyers for Donald Trump appeared in court on Wednesday to pick up the pieces and make sense of how this can possibly get any worse for the former president.

Huge sections of the Trump family’s real estate empire are having their business licenses revoked, and the Trumps are losing control of their companies to a court-appointed official. The trial set to start next week threatens to empty their bank accounts too.

Half a day after Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s Tuesday ruling, it’s evident the real estate tycoon and his lawyers still aren’t sure what will happen to Trump’s Monopoly board collection of buildings in Manhattan and elsewhere.

“Certain of the entities own physical assets, like 40 Wall Street and Trump Tower. Are those assets now going to be sold? Or managed under direction of the monitor?” Trump defense lawyer Christopher Kise asked the judge in court.

Trump Basically Just Lost the New York Bank Fraud Case Before It Even Started

After privately discussing the matter with his law clerk, the judge declined to make a final decision “right now.” But the judge made clear an independent person will play a role in determining the fate of this multibillion-dollar network of companies, giving both investigators and the Trump family extra time to jointly find an outside official who can oversee this while they’re wrested from the family’s control.

Engoron on Tuesday decided that New York Attorney General Letitia James already proved the Trump family routinely lied to banks by wildly inflating property values for years—the first of seven counts in the AG’s lawsuit. Each count alleges a violation of the state’s Executive Law § 63(12), which keeps corporations honest. In court today, Trump’s attorneys asked a question dripping with existential dread.

“What’s the point of the others?” Kise asked the judge. “I don’t know how many 63(12) counts you need. You’ve already granted relief, except for disgorgement.”

Kise was referring to the next punishment the Trumps might face, as state investigators want to seize $250 million-plus in profits that they obtained after faking asset values on business paperwork submitted to banks for loans.

The judge was hesitant to drop the rest of the lawsuit after hearing from the state attorneys. Kevin Wallace, senior enforcement counsel at the AG’s office, stressed that investigators still want to present a full case that shows how Trump and his heirs engaged in this conspiracy—and the extent to which they are personally responsible. Investigators seek to prove that the former president, his sons Don Jr. and Eric, and other top corporate executives individually made decisions that broke the law. If the judge agrees at trial, he could order them to pay up and refuse to allow them to hide behind their employer.

As of Wednesday morning, lawyers were still discussing how to manage evidence and expert testimony at trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday.

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