New York Judge Arthur Engoron has declined to push back the scheduled date for a trial in the $250 million civil case from New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging years of financial misconduct at the Trump family business. It’s set for October 2.
That case hinges on accusations of deceptive claims from the Trumps and their business about the values and details of dozens of assets associated with the company, deceptive representations that would have been positioned to provide the Trump Organization with financial perks like benefits on tax filings. For instance, among what has been under dispute is the claimed valuation for a conservation easement claimed at a sprawling Trump property situated north of New York City, in Westchester County. The Trumps’ corner — it’s not just Donald named as a defendant; so are his three most prominent adult children — failed to convince Engoron in their push to delay the planned beginning for the trial in early October of this year.
The Trumps’ defense shortened their requested extension. Earlier, there had been concerns about the trial, should it proceed per the requested schedule, disrupting a trial in another case planned for early 2024. That other trial was already set according to scheduling the Trumps’ side wanted, and having them too close together could’ve forced further delays in one or both of the cases. The federal case challenges the Trumps for hawking what turned out to be shoddy products.
Delaying the New York fraud trial too far into the future could have allowed the former president or allies to claim a conflict with Donald’s ongoing run for president, a campaign that he has also sought to use to his advantage in dealing with the criminal investigation from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. By virtue in part of the simple fact he’s running for office, Trump — and others — have tried to cast Bragg’s investigative actions as political interference, which isn’t an automatically justifiable conclusion.
The Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution notwithstanding, it’s not as though there’s a portion of U.S. law that allows candidates for elected office to simply get away with committing provably criminal acts because they’re running, even if the prosecutors and individual candidates happen to have different political affiliations.
“This case is complex, but it’s not complicated,” Engoron said in court on Tuesday, as highlighted by Law & Crime. “It all boils down to whether the statements of financial condition are true, and the rest as Rabbi Hillel famously said, is all commentary.” Engoron has also spoken to some of the limits on defenses available to Trump. He can’t just claim anything and hope one of the arguments sticks. Instead, claiming others also perpetrated similar acts or insisting institutions to which the company allegedly lied could’ve themselves examined relevant details are off-limits for the defense, as are claims that substantive harm wasn’t actually recorded here.