NY seeks $370 million in penalties in Trump’s civil fraud trial

New York state lawyers increased their request for penalties to over $370 million Friday in Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial. He retorted, “They should pay me.”

The exchange came as lawyers for both sides filed papers highlighting their takeaways from the trial in court filings ahead of closing arguments, set for next Thursday. Trump is expected to attend, though plans could change.

It will be the final chance for state and defense lawyers to make their cases. The civil lawsuit, which accuses the leading Republican presidential hopeful of deceiving banks and insurers by vastly inflating his net worth, is consequential for him even while he fights four criminal cases in various courts.

The New York civil case could end up barring him from doing business in the state where he built his real estate empire. On top of that, state Attorney General Letitia James is seeking the $370 million penalty, plus interest — up from a pretrial figure of $250 million, nudged to over $300 million during the proceeding.

The state says the new sum reflects windfalls from wrongdoing, chiefly $199 million in profits from property sales and $169 million in savings on interest rates, as calculated by an investment banking expert hired by James’ office.

Trump bristled at the proposed penalty, calling it “a disgrace” at a campaign stop in Sioux Center, Iowa.

“There was no victim. There was no default. There was no damages. No nothing,” he said. In an all-caps post hours earlier on his Truth Social platform, he complained that the attorney general was seeking $370 million and said that instead she “should pay [him],” asserting that businesses are fleeing New York.

According to the state Labor Department, the number of private sector jobs in New York increased 1% in the year that ended this past November, compared to 1.6% nationally.

James’ office argued in a filing on Friday that Trump, his company and executives clearly intended to defraud people.

“The myriad deceptive schemes they employed to inflate asset values and conceal facts were so outrageous that they belie innocent explanation,” state lawyer Kevin Wallace wrote.

The state alleges Trump and his company ginned up exorbitant values for golf courses, hotels, and more, including Trump’s former home in his namesake tower in New York and his current home at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. The numbers were listed on personal financial statements that netted him attractive rates on loans and insurance, leaving him money to invest in other projects and even his 2016 presidential campaign, James’ office says.

The defendants, including Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, deny any wrongdoing. The former president has painted the case as a political maneuver by James, Judge Arthur Engoron and other Democrats, saying they’re abusing the legal system to try to cut off his chances of winning back the White House this year.

He asserts that his financial statements actually came in billions of dollars low, and that any overestimations — such as valuing his Trump Tower penthouse at nearly three times its actual size — were mere mistakes and made no difference in the overall picture of his fortune.

He also says the documents are essentially legally bulletproof because they said the numbers weren’t audited, among other caveats. Recipients understood them as simply starting points for their own analyses, the defense says.

None of Trump’s lenders testified that they wouldn’t have made the loans or would have charged more interest if his financial statements had shown different numbers, and 10-plus weeks of testimony produced “no factual evidence from any witness that the gains were ill-gotten,” attorneys Michael Madaio and Christopher Kise wrote in a filing Friday. Nor, they said, was there proof that insurers were ripped off.

Separately, defense lawyers argued that claims against Executive Vice Presidents Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. should be dismissed because they never had “anything more than a peripheral knowledge or involvement in the creation, preparation, or use of” their father’s financial statements.

The sons relied on the work of other Trump Organization executives and an outside accounting firm that prepared those documents, attorneys Clifford Robert and Michael Farina said, echoing the scions’ own testimony.

Their father also took the stand, disputing the allegations, decrying the case as political and criticizing the judge and the attorney general. James’ office argued in its filing Friday that Trump was “not a credible witness.”

“He was evasive, gave irrelevant speeches and was incapable of answering questions in a direct and credible manner,” Wallace wrote.

The verdict is up to the judge because James brought the case under a state law that doesn’t allow for a jury. Engoron has said he hopes to decide by the end of this month.

He will weigh claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. But he ruled before trial on the lawsuit’s top claim, finding that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud for years. With that ruling, the judge ordered that a receiver take control of some of the ex-president’s properties, but an appeals court has frozen that order for now.

During the trial, Engoron fined Trump a total of $15,000 after finding that he violated a gag order. The order, imposed after Trump maligned a law clerk, barred all trial participants from commenting publicly on the judge’s staff.

Trump’s lawyers are appealing the gag order.