As 2024 dawns, Donald Trump faces significant legal and financial challenges. The former US president is embroiled in a civil fraud trial in New York, with potential repercussions that could deeply impact his business dealings and financial status.
Justice Arthur Engoron of the Manhattan Supreme Court will deliver the verdict in the fraud case, which could include imposing $250 million in penalties on Trump and a ban on the Trump Organisation from conducting business in New York. Engoron said he hopes to have a decision on the case by the end of January.
The allegations against Trump involve inflating the value of his assets to secure more favourable loan and insurance terms. This case, brought forth by New York Attorney General Letitia James, also implicates Trump’s two eldest sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. The trial, which began on October 2, paused in mid-December and is set to resume with closing arguments on January 11.
Engoron has already determined that Trump committed fraud, but the extent of the penalties remains undecided. Legal experts speculate that the judge may either demand the full $250 million or dismiss the financial claims entirely.
Evan Gotlob, a former prosecutor and defence attorney, told The New York Post that the lack of detailed evidence regarding the financial losses incurred by lenders or insurers makes it unlikely for the penalty to deviate from the amount sought by the Attorney General.
The trial has seen testimony from around 40 witnesses over 11 weeks, scrutinising the financial statements from 2011 to 2021. Despite the Trump family’s denial of wrongdoing, attributing any discrepancies to their accountants and lawyers, the court found Trump liable for fraud before the trial commenced and revoked the Trump Organisation’s business licences. However, the revocation is currently on hold pending the final verdict.
Gotlob predicts a lengthy legal battle ahead, with appeals potentially extending the case’s resolution well beyond the 2024 presidential election. Regarding the potential revocation of the Trump Organisation’s business licence in New York, the lawyer anticipated that the real estate empire might not feel the consequences for years due to the pause in the ruling, pending appeals.
Despite this, Gotlob acknowledged that even if the ban is enforced, Trump could employ strategies such as operating shell companies to circumvent it. He added that given New York’s central role in the business world, there could be significant damage to losing the business licence – for five years or more.
During the trial, Trump attended eight days of proceedings and vocally criticised the Attorney General, the judge, and even the judge’s law clerk. His conduct led to a limited gag order and a $15,000 fine for violating it. As the trial nears its conclusion, the outcome could shape not only Trump’s financial future but also his political aspirations as he leads the polls for the Republican presidential nomination.