New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that she was filing a lawsuit against the Trump Organization and its officers, including the former president and his three eldest children. But it appears to be all smoke and mirrors.
James is seeking $250 million in damages in her 222-page complaint, alleging that the company and its officers had engaged in fraudulent business practices by overvaluing its assets to obtain favorable loan terms.
James told reporters "the complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself, and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us."
But for a number of reasons her lawsuit amounts to "sound and fury, signifying nothing," beginning with the nature of the lawsuit itself.
New York state has a long list of criminal fraud statutes, including S 190.35 Misconduct by corporate official, S 190.60 Scheme to defraud in the second degree, and S 190.65 Scheme to defraud in the first degree.
But she chose instead to file a civil lawsuit. Why?
Possibly because of the relaxed burden of proof standards in civil cases.
The government has to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases; the plaintiff in a civil action is only required to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence — that the claim is more likely true than it is false.
Secondly, and most importantly, the lawsuit asks for a cool quarter-billion in damages but doesn’t state how it’s been damaged, as lawyer and Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter observed.
"I have only skimmed this dog's breakfast of a complaint, but what popped out at me for the parts I looked are were the lack of damages allegations, much less ones against NY, the plaintiff,” he said. "You cannot sue if you did not suffer a loss. None are pleaded in the parts I looked at."
Despite the fact that James names "the People of the State of New York" as the plaintiffs, the only parties defrauded (assuming her claims can be proven) are the financial institutions with which the Trump Organization did business.
During her press briefing, James alleged that "Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth . . . to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York.”
On the other hand, assuming her allegations are true, "the People of the State of New York" were, if anything, enriched by Trump’s alleged overvaluations of his properties.
Property taxes are based on the property’s value. The greater a property’s value, the higher the tax assessment. Tax revenue arguably benefit everyone, or, in this case, all of "the People of the State of New York."
So why is James going through these legal gymnastics? Desperation.
Four years ago she ran for attorney general on a single promise: to get Trump. Now she’s up for reelection and despite New York being a deep blue state, her campaign is foundering.
The latest polls have Republican Michael Henry slightly edging out James — 44.2% vs. 43%. Not much, but enough to give the Democrat a case of insomnia.
Last week her GOP challenger referred to the poll in a tweet.
"I am beating Letitia James in the latest @trafalgar_group poll," Henry said. "This is a winnable race. We have to keep our energy high & keep telling our neighbors and friends to vote in November."
The lawsuit was filed simply in an attempt to muddy the waters and to demonstrate that James is making good on the promise she made to voters four years ago to get Trump.
And the timing is interesting also. Trump’s lawyers will undoubtedly file an answer to the complaint along with a motion to dismiss — a motion that won’t be acted upon before election day.
Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, released a statement following James' announcement.
"Today's filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the attorney general's political agenda," she said.
"It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General's Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place."
Even former U.S. Attorney General William Barr — no fan of Trump — called the lawsuit "a political hit job."
He concluded that "this, to me, looks like gross overreach, which I think is going to end up backfiring on them, because I think it will make people sympathetic for Trump, that this is another example of people piling on because of Trump Derangement Syndrome, this strong desire to punish him."
New York’s lawsuit against Trump is simply a Democratic politician’s attempt to revive her sinking campaign and reputation. The suit will, in the end, go nowhere; and with any luck, James’ reelection campaign will go nowhere also.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to Newsmax. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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