Donald Trump appears in court in New York in a civil trial for fraud in his businesses | International

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Donald Trump arrives at the courthouse in Manhattan (New York), this Monday.JUSTIN LANE / POOL (EFE)

Former President Donald Trump appeared this Monday before a Manhattan (New York) court for a civil trial for fraud. The first hearing of the case—initiated in September 2022 by New York Attorney General Letitia James, against the magnate, two of his eldest sons, Donald Jr and Eric, and several executives of the organization—started punctually at ten in the morning, local time (six hours more in mainland Spain), after the former president's arrival at the court half an hour earlier amid a large deployment of security and the usual swarm of cameras. Trump arrived at the court accompanied by his two children and several business partners. “This is a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time,” the politician declared before entering the room. “We have a great company. I built a great company, it's tremendous... It has some of the largest real estate assets in the world. And now I have to appear before an unscrupulous judge,” he added.

Last week, the judge investigating the case, Arthur Engoron, ruled that the former president is responsible for fraud for inflating the value of his properties in his statements for a decade to deceive banks, insurers and other entities and obtain benefits. Prosecutor James, a Democrat whom the former president accuses of a political witch hunt, will demand $250 million in damages, and will propose prohibiting the Trumps from serving as directors in New York, as well as prohibiting the company, the so-called Organization Trump, operate for five years. Trump is not scheduled to testify for several weeks, and the trial will last at least until next Christmas. His voluntary appearance this Monday, however, constitutes a radical change with respect to previous summonses, to which he refused to attend.

Although this is a civil process (with no risk of prison sentences if found guilty) and the sanction requested by the prosecution is practically pocket change, the scope of the measures imposed by Judge Engoron seriously undermines the reputation as a businessman of Trump, who boasted of his self-made man figure as the basis of his political career. Engoron could remove control of important assets of the organization, starting with the symbolic Trump Tower, in the heart of Manhattan, from which the Republican started his political career with the cinematographic image of success: going down the escalator with his wife Melania. At the entrance of the building, a riot of chrome, gold and marble, on whose three upper floors lies the family home (the triplex would also be included in the sanction). Additionally, Trump could be left without a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a country estate. The case only affects a handful of the approximately 500 entities in Trump's portfolio, but they are some of the most relevant.

The trial, therefore, will scrutinize his business practices, and something much more essential in a country that especially punishes dishonesty: whether the fortune that Trump prides himself on having acquired through tenacity and ambition is not actually built on original sin. Of the lie. Although facing his hypothetical re-election as president in 2024 - he is the favorite Republican candidate - this civil case does not have the political relevance of some of the four accusations that weigh against him (such as those of electoral interference in Georgia or the papers of Mar-a-Lago), the possibility of losing control of Trump Tower and the other properties has infuriated the Republican candidate. Trump rejects bad practices and maintains that James and Engoron are undervaluing assets such as the Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, in addition to calling the cause a “farce.” His lawyers also assure that what appears in his statements does not matter because they include a disclaimer clause that says they are not one hundred percent reliable.

In messages posted overnight on his Truth Social network, Trump stressed that he is going to court “to fight for my name and reputation,” and called on James and Engoron to resign.

The former president built his political career on his credit as a billionaire and master negotiator, an asset that he exploited in his book The art of the dealfrom 1987: the work that, part memoir and part business advice manual, promoted his personal brand - his name - and which was later evaluated by other marketing and visibility initiatives such as the reality television program The newbie, his definitive springboard into politics in 2016.

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Among those called to testify during the process, in addition to his two oldest sons, several executives of the firm and Michael Cohen, his former confidant turned enemy, there is also Allen Weisselberg, who was financial director of the Trump Organization for decades. , and that he pleaded guilty to tax fraud to prevent the fraud from affecting his boss. The scapegoat was sentenced to five months in prison last January. The Trump Organization was found guilty of the same charge in December, and ordered a month later to pay a $1.6 million penalty.

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