Donald John Trump’s Really Bad Day
On September 21, 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a roughly 220-page lawsuit against Donald John Trump, his three older children, his company, and others. More on that in a moment.
The Search Warrant Matter
Later in the day a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals – which included two Trump appointees – issued an unpublished opinion that stayed the trial court order preventing the United States from using classified documents taken by the FBI when it executed the search warrant on Mar-a-Lago. Judge Aileen Cannon was wrong, wrong, wrong.
The opinion lets Judge Cannon know, politely, that judges do not make decisions to further the interests of those who rescued them a prosecutor’s office. Reading the 29 pages demonstrates with clarity just how badly Judge Cannon decided the issue that led to the appeal. She did not face a difficult issue: as the appellate court noted, Richey v. Smith, 515 F.2d 1239 (5th Cir. 1975) sets out a four-factor test regarding a request for the return of property before an indictment issues. (In fact, Mr. Trump has not engaged in the process of seeking the return of the documents.) How “not difficult”? No one alleged the existence of the first of the four necessary factors.
Judges get hired to follow the law. When they deviate, things generally end badly. Mr. Trump deserved a fair hearing. Not a decision that ignores the law.
The Fraud Suit
We hurt rich people in their wallets. Frankly, while the documents case might result in an indictment, I cannot imagine Mr. Trump ever being confined, even for one night. That’s why, for me, the New York lawsuit matters.
Young litigators, pay attention: you build a case From the Bottom Up. (The link? A shameless plug for my former sister-in-law, a terrific fiction writer / professor and my daughter’s aunt Bo. My blog. My rules.)
From the bottom up. The complaint here reflects a ton of effort to develop facts. Fraudsters live in a Say Anything world. I know that world, for I have had plenty of clients and others whose statements too often begin with “Well, I’ll just say …” or “Why can’t I claim …” or “Can anyone prove I lied?” Umm, “Not on my watch …” or “Because lying violates the law …” or “Doesn’t matter but, actually, Yes, mostly.”
Donald J. Trump is a fraudster. The evidence in the complaint reflects a total disregard for facts. Best example? The Trump apartment includes 10,996 square feet, not the 30,000 square feet he signed off on in the 2015 financial statement. Hundreds of examples exist, but when you claim your house is 3X larger than it is in fact, that’s a checkable lie. And when those extra 19,004 square feet materially change your net worth, a fraud judgment should not surprise you.
A fraud claim requires proof of several elements. I do not know New York law, but the first 25% of the complaint suggests a level of effort that should concern Team Trump.
Lots of time will pass before the fraud suit trial. However, civil cases follow a set of rules. The State of New York lawyers will work hard to keep the case on track. In my experience – which, admittedly, has never involved a 220 page complaint or a FPOTUS as a party – judges do not cut litigants much slack when their actions suggest delay as a driver. Expect adherence to a schedule, and an outcome before too long.
Tomorrow would have been my mom’s 86th birthday. With that date looming, as well as Irwin’s passing and the 6th anniversary of her passing in 30 days, she’s on my mind. One of her pet maxims: Everybody gets theirs, eventually? Your days have arrived, Former Guy.