Trump Faces a Civil Fraud Lawsuit

Photo posted by @nytimes on Instagram

On Thursday, April 13, former United States President, Donald J. Trump, was questioned under oath in a civil fraud lawsuit. This is the most recent legal development regarding Trump, the questioning occurred mere weeks following Trump’s indictment in which he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

The Questioning

The civil fraud lawsuit was brought by Letitia James, Attorney General of New York. The case, which she filed last September, will likely go to trial later this year. Trump, along with the Trump Organization and three of his children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — face charges of “staggering” fraud. In her filing of the lawsuit, James asserts that the Trumps overvalued their assets by billions. She seeks $250 million from the family in reparation for their fraudulent actions. These fraudulent actions include lying to lenders and insurers regarding the value of Trump’s assets, including properties like Trump Tower, 40 Wall Street and Mar-a-Lago. If proven guilty, Trump would have broken state, and plausibly federal, law.

Prior to the questioning, which began at 10 a.m. and lasted until shortly after 6 p.m., one of Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba, issued a statement saying that Trump “remains resolute in his stance that he has nothing to conceal, and he looks forward to educating the attorney general about the immense success of his multibillion dollar company.”

According to the New York Times, the questioning was “neither overly combative nor polite” and “Mr. Trump provided some substantive answers.”

Trump’s behavior and willingness to answer questions during the deposition will likely have major implications for the results of the future trial. Jurors in criminal trials cannot hold a defendant’s silence against them. However, in a civil trial, such as Trump’s, jurors may infer — from a refusal to answer questions — that the defendant has something to hide. Conversely, James has the ability to use Trump’s deposition answers against him in the trial. She could also share any statements with criminal prosecutors who are investigating him in regard to his recent indictment.

At trial, Trump’s lawyers will likely take the stance that the financial statements included disclaimers that the property values were “unaudited estimates” and that property value is always subjective.

Photo posted by @nytimes on Instagram
So, what happens next?

The civil lawsuit is expected to go to trial later this year.

The indictment, surrounding accusations of a sex scandal cover-up scheme during the 2016 presidential campaign, will continue to develop over the coming months. The result of a five-year-long investigation by the New York district attorney’s office, the indictment will be a long legal process. A trial would take place next year at the earliest. In the meantime, documents and evidence will be exchanged between the prosecution and defense and motions will be filed. The next hearing in the case will take place on Dec. 4, when Justice Merchan will rule on motions. As the first current or former president of the United States to be charged with a crime, this process is largely uncharted.

Trump remains under investigation for a handful of other offenses. Georgia’s Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis, is investigating his attempts to manipulate the 2020 election in the state. Similar concerns regarding attempts to overturn election results and his handling of sensitive documents are being examined by a federally-appointed special counsel in Washington.

Legal developments regarding Trump are sure to continue in the coming weeks and months.


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