The story so far: New York Attorney General Letitia James began investigating the disgraced former president Donald Trump’s criminal organisation in early 2019. In other words, her current civil investigation began long before the 2020 presidential election, long before the January 6 insurrection, long before Trump committed the crime of unlawfully removing hundreds of top secret documents from the White House. Long before Joe Biden became President of the United States.
It’s important to repeat this while Trump and family continue to insist that the current civil action (and the four criminal indictments) are Joe Biden’s doing. It serves as a reminder of how silly the shrill Republican claims are and how long a time can pass between any investigation and an action in court. Claiming it’s somehow Joe Biden’s fault is reminiscent of how many MAGA Republicans continue to absurdly claim that Barack Obama was responsible for 9/11.
While the civil trial remains a minor player in the ongoing saga of Donald Trump’s considerable legal woes, it serves as a worthy appetizer to the coming months of criminal prosecutions. But the evidence that comes from the civil trial itself could and quite possibly will lead to a significant criminal prosecution down the road.
Early on Wednesday one of the attorney general’s witnesses in the civil trial testified about the losses he believes banks suffered as a result of Donald Trump’s alleged fraud. Michiel McCarty, the chair and CEO of the investment bank MM Dillon & Co, said the inflation of Trump’s wealth allowed the Trump organisation to secure better rates for loans. He calculated the banks lost more than $168m in interest payments as a result.
That is key to understanding Trump’s civil wrong: among other things Trump effectively stole one hundred and sixty-eight million dollars from the banks. Letitia James wants to reclaim that money for the people of New York and she wants to inflict further punitive damages on the Trump organisation. The summary judgement has established two hundred fifty million dollars as a starting point. The subsequent trial is nothing more than the state of New York haggling about the final price.
The parade of Trump’s children and the pathetic testimony of the amazingly stupid Trump Jr and the amazingly stupider Eric remains a sideshow comedy about the family’s culpability in the Trump organisation’s sprawling history of criminal malfeasance. Trump Jr continues to tweet his nitwit conspiracy theories as if he was never in court. He is whistling past the graveyard while the only job he’s ever known self-destructs around his ears. These unravelings are magnificent to behold.
Throughout his questioning Trump Jr claimed not to recall much of what he ought to have recalled. One is reminded of the 88 times Ronald Reagan used the phrase “I don’t recall” during his eight hour testimony concerning the Iran-Contra affair. So far gone was his mind that in Reagan’s case he might have even been telling the truth. Trump Jr is clearly lying.
Donald Trump continues to attack judge Arthur Engoron as a “political hack” in a post that ended with the line: “WITCH HUNT!!! ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!” Trump’s lawyers continue to piss off that very same judge while pursuing a shockingly stupid defense intended for one person: Donald Trump. Otherwise they know they are losing this case badly. In short, everything is beautiful. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.