Manhattan judge wants Trump to stop calling NY attorney general's $250 million fraud case a witch hunt

New York Attorney General Letitia James and Donald TrumpAssociated Press
New York Attorney General Letitia James and Donald TrumpAssociated Press  
  • A Manhattan judge Friday denied Trump's latest attempt to dodge NY's fraud accusations.

  • The judge criticized Trump's "frivolous" arguments and dinged Ivanka Trump for claiming ignorance in a deposition.

  • Letitia James' $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump and his business remains on track for an Oct. 2, 2023 trial.

A Manhattan judge on Friday delivered his latest blow to Donald Trump, rejecting what he called the former president's "borderline frivolous" request to dismiss New York's $250 million fraud lawsuit, which seeks to run his business empire out of the state.

In a nine-page decision, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron kept Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit on track for an early October trial.

He stopped short of sanctioning Trump's lawyers, as he'd threatened earlier in the week, for filing what he called repeatedly rejected legal arguments - including the claim that James' three-year probe of his business and resulting lawsuit is a "witch hunt."

As early as her 2018 campaign for attorney general, James, a Democrat, had made it clear she disagreed with the then-president's policies, and had promised to investigate and pursue fraud charges against his Manhattan-headquartered golf resort and real estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump's latest "witch hunt'' argument - raised as part of a motion seeking the lawsuit's dismissal, is invalid, Engoron wrote Friday, because it has already failed before his court, in state appellate court, and before a federal judge last year, as the former president raised it again and again to fight the attorney general's investigatory subpoenas.

In denying the motion to dismiss, Engoron rejected Trump's likewise repeatedly-rejected claims that James does not have the legal standing or capacity to sue him, and that the attorney general's allegations are too old to pursue.

"Reading these arguments was, to quote the baseball sage Lawrence Peter ("Yogi") Berra, 'Deja vu all over again,'" the judge wrote.

The judge also rejected as "wholly unconvincing" Trump's argument that disclaimers attached to the allegedly fraudulent financial statements sent to potential lenders - essentially warning them not to rely on his math - absolve the former president of fraud.

Finally, the judge took a shot at Ivanka Trump, who has served as a Trump Organization vice president and who is named by James as a defendant, as are her brothers Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., both current vice presidents at their father's company.

In rejecting Ivanka Trump's separately filed motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Engoron suggested she had been less than truthful in last year's court-mandated deposition before James' legal staff.

Ivanka Trump had claimed she should be removed from the lawsuit because she had stopped working for her father's business in 2017 and was not accused of personally falsifying or knowing about the falsification of any company business records.

The attorney general's evidence links Ivanka Trump to years' worth of interactions with her father's longtime favorite lender, Deutsche Bank, Engoron countered in his decision. Those interactions including overseeing the financing and subsequent loan compliance for the Trump National Doral golf course in Miami and the Old Post Office in Washington, DC.

"The record establishes that Ms. Trump participated far more in securing the loans than just passively receiving emails," Engoron wrote.

"In her deposition Ms. Trump testified that she does not understand statements of financial condition and that she does not even know if they would include all assets and liabilities," the judge wrote.

"This is despite her communications with Deutsche Bank about SFCs," he wrote.

Ivanka Trump further claimed she couldn't be held legally liable in the attorney general's lawsuit, but that, too, is not the case, Engoron wrote.

"The record demonstrates that Ms. Trump received over $10 million in profits from the sale of the Old Post Office," the judge wrote.

If the request for proposal for the Old Post Office was based on fraudulent statements of Trump's worth, as the attorney general alleges, then the lawsuit could result in her having to forfeit some of those profits, he wrote.

"Once again, Donald Trump's attempts to evade the law have been rejected," James said in a statement.

"We sued Mr. Trump because we found that he engaged in years of extensive financial fraud to enrich himself and cheat the system. Today's decision makes clear that Donald Trump is not above the law and must answer for his actions in court."

"We look forward to receiving a full and proper review of our arguments on appeal," said Trump attorney Alina Habba. Another Trump family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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