Donald Trump is expected in New York court on Monday to defend himself in a civil trial in New York. high risks for his real estate empire, the first in a long series of legal meetings which disrupt his path towards a possible return to his home country. the White House.
At 10:00 a.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT), the tempestuous 77-year-old billionaire will sit to the left of his judge, Arthur Engoron, whom he has called all the names – “thug”, “deranged “, “hateful” – since the trial opened on October 2. For his part, the 74-year-old magistrate with slightly disheveled white hair fined him two fines of $5,000 and $10,000 for attacking his clerk.
Under the large mural with slightly faded colors celebrating the adoption of a “Charter of Liberties” in 1683, the former President of the United States must take the oath, like his two children Donald Jr and Eric a few days ago , and be questioned by one of the deputies of the Attorney General of the State of New York Letitia James.
Donald Trump Jr, one of the sons of former President Donald Trump, in New York court, November 2, 2023 © Getty – David Dee Delgado
After three years of investigations, the elected Democrat filed a civil lawsuit against the staff of the Trump Organization, accusing the Trump father and son of having colossally inflated the group's assets – a myriad of companies managing skyscrapers, hotels and luxury residences or golf courses around the world – to obtain better bank loans and more favorable insurance conditions.
She is demanding a $250 million fine and bans on running businesses for the Republican billionaire and his children.
Heard twice during the investigation, Donald Trump denounced, in the preamble to his first testimony on August 10, 2022, “the greatest hunt for witches in the history of our country”, before remaining silent.
During his second hearing, on April 13, 2023, he refuted any fraud, assuring that the banks “had made a lot of money”.
– “Repeated frauds” –
The trial is off to a bad start for the Trump family: a few days before its opening, the judge ruled that the New York State Attorney General's Office presented “conclusive evidence that between 2014 and 2021, the defendants overvalued the assets” of the group from “812 million (to) 2.2 billion dollars” depending on the year, in the figures recorded on Donald Trump's annual financial statements.
Donald Trump's legal woes © AFP – Olivia BUGAULT, Sophie RAMIS
As a result of “repeated frauds”, he ordered the liquidation of the companies managing these assets, such as the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York or the neo-Gothic style and soon to be century-old skyscraper of 40 Wall Street. In other words, if the decision, suspended on appeal, was applied, the Republican billionaire would lose control of part of his real estate empire, he who had launched into politics on his image as a successful builder.
For the past month, Donald Trump, who is not facing prison in this civil case, has regularly attended the debates, taking advantage of his visits to pose as the victim of a legal scheme in front of the cameras. Theses were repeated the same evening on most media outlets popular with conservatives, such as Fox News.
Former US President Donald Trump (c), his daughter Ivanka Trump (de) and his son Donald Trump Jr (l) upon their arrival in Marietta, on January 4, 2021 in Georgia © AFP – MANDEL NGAN
On the merits of the case, his lawyers refute any fraud, arguing that real estate evaluations are necessarily subjective and that the lending banks have not lost a dollar.
This trial is only one of the first legal trials awaiting Donald Trump, criminally charged in four other cases. In particular, he must appear from March 2024 before federal justice in Washington for his alleged illegal attempts to reverse the result of the 2020 election.
For the moment, his indictments have not been affected his dominance over his Republican competitors in the polls. Sunday, one year to the day before the presidential election, a New York Times/Siena College poll also gave him the winner against Joe Biden in five key states (Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania) won by the Democrat in 2020 .
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