Letitia James: ‘Everyone Must Play by the Same Rules’; No Precedent for Trump Case

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 16: Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conferenc
Michael M. Santiago/Getty

New York Attorney General Letitia James welcomed Judge Arthur Engoron’s staggering $354 million fine against Donald Trump on Friday by declaring at a news conference: “Everyone must play by the same rules.”

But a review of 70 years of legal history by the Associated Press showed no precedent whatsoever for suing an entrepreneur or business for allegedly inflating real estate values when there was no victim that suffered any damage.

Indeed, the record suggests that James held Trump to different rules.

To recap:

Letitia James ran for Attorney General in 2018 calling Trump an “illegitimate” president and vowing to use the law to pursue him. She then sued Trump and his three grown children for civil fraud, right before the midterm elections, which were hotly contested in New York. She alleged that Trump had exaggerated his personal wealth and the value of his real estate holdings when applying for loans from banks. In so doing, she claimed, Trump violated a New York fraud statute that did not require intent, or harm.

There were no victims: the banks did their own due diligence before lending to Trump, who paid all of the loans back, on time. There was no evidence that Trump intended to mislead anyone; loan applicants frequently overestimate their assets’ values.

Nevertheless, Engoron — a registered Democrat — issued a summary judgment finding Trump liable for fraud before Trump had any opportunity to present any evidence in his own defense. The trial then proceeded to a determination of the penalty owed.

James not only wanted to slap Trump with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines; she also wanted to ban him from doing any business in the state in future, and wanted to take away control of his existing businesses and place them in receivership custody.

The Associated Press reported in January that there was no precedent for New York law being used — or abused — in this way:

[A]n Associated Press analysis of nearly 70 years of similar cases showed Trump’s case stands apart: It’s the only big business found that was threatened with a shutdown without a showing of obvious victims and major losses.

Some legal experts worry if the New York judge goes ahead with such a penalty in a final ruling expected within the next couple of weeks, it could make it easier for courts to wipe out companies in the future.

A finding of fraud under the New York’s statute, known as Executive Law 63(12), does not require any misrepresentations or flat-out lies result in anyone getting duped or losing money. But AP’s review of nearly 150 cases reported in legal databases found that in the dozen cases calling for “dissolution,” victims and losses were key factors.

[T]he only case the AP found of a business dissolved under the anti-fraud law without citing actual victims or losses was a relatively small company closed in 1972 for writing term papers for college students. In that case, the attorney general said the victim was the “integrity of the educational process.”

Ultimately, Engoron fined Trump $354 million — $450 million, with pre-trial interest — and barred Trump from doing business in New York for three years. His two sons were each barred from doing business in New York for two years, and fined $4 million.

If, indeed, “everyone must play by the same rules,” that standard would seem to apply to James as well. The fact that she singled Trump out, and that she had an obvious agenda in doing so, will factor into Trump’s appeal — and the court of public opinion.

Update: Trump issued a statement Friday responding to the ruling:

This Election Interference and tyrannical Abuse of Power by a Crooked Judge and Crooked Attorney General cannot be tolerated. My case was already won in the Appellate Division, and more than 80% of the frivolous claims were wiped out. Yet, as I suspected, and in order to hurt me and the Republican Party politically, Crooked and Corrupt Judge Arthur Engoron ignored his loss at the Appellate Division, and came up with an outrageous $355 Million Dollar fine against me. Using a statute that has never been applied like this before, the Corrupt Judge conspired with the Crooked Attorney General, Letitia James, and punished a liquid and beautiful Corporate Empire that started in New York, and has been successful all around the world.

There were no victims, and not one person testified there was any fraud. The actual witnesses established my Net Worth exceeded that reported in my Financial Statements as those Statements never included my most valuable Asset – the TRUMP Brand. The Highly Respected Expert Witness said my Financial Statements were among the best he has ever seen. I paid over $300 Million Dollars in taxes to New York City and State, and they want me gone. They are Crazed Lunatics who are destroying everything in their way. It all starts with Biden’s attacks on his Political Opponent!

The actual bankers who were involved in the loan transactions testified I was a highly sought-after “whale” of a client with “one of the strongest personal balance sheets” they had ever seen, and I was overqualified for the loans. Those banks earned more than $100 Million Dollars in profits doing business with me and my companies. But to justify his crazed attack on me and my family, this biased, Trump Hating Judge, ignored all this, and even said Michael Cohen told the truth, although Cohen admitted to lying hundreds of times, and lied right in front of the Judge during the trial. This shocking and corrupt Interference in the Free Markets for political gain places every New York business transaction at risk. We must make sure Corrupt Politicians and Judges cannot continue to abuse the power of their office, and violate the public trust. We have already won, and will continue the fight on appeal!

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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