Former President Donald Trump appears to have lied in sworn court records, subjecting him to serious sanctions from a New York judge who has already lost patience and threatened to punish him before.
Trump claims he was not president of the Trump Organization during his four years in the White House, although he previously testified he was an “inactive president.” And he claims he had no financial stake in a partnership with the real estate company Vornado, despite previously testifying that he did.
On Tuesday, New York prosecutors asked Judge Arthur F. Engoron to intervene quickly to ensure the former president still faces a trial later this year that could bankrupt his company.
New York AG Letitia James sued the Trump family and their real estate empire for at least $250 million last year, the culmination of a three-year investigation that documented how the Trumps routinely falsified property values to get better bank loans and defrauded taxes. The civil suit threatens to rip up the company’s credentials, seize its bank accounts and choke off its access to all banks in New York, the world’s financial capital.
The Trumps, desperate to avoid the collapse of their company, initially sought to disqualify the AG and prevent her from accessing company records. But when Judge Engoron threatened to sanction lawyers for continually presenting “frivolous” legal arguments, the Trumps were finally forced to respond to James’ case with actual defenses last week.
The result was a legal document that read like a joke, with Trump’s lawyer Alina Haba going so far as to claim that there was formally no such thing as a “Trump Organization” — an absurd position given that it’s a billion-dollar company. which Trump used to build his reputation for decades.
On Tuesday, the AG’s office also called her out on it, noting that in November she started a court hearing before the same judge, posing as the company’s attorney.
“Good morning, your honor. Alina Haba on the Trump Organization, Donald Trump, etc.,” she said Nov. 22 in a New York courtroom.
The AG’s office also pointed out how Trump, in a separate case involving his security guards beating protesters in Manhattan, testified behind closed doors that while he was in the White House, he “was an inactive president, and now I’m active again “. Testimony shows he remained at the top of the Trump Organization.
“Was there a period of time when you weren’t president of the Trump Organization?” asked the protester’s attorney, Benjamin Diktor.
“Well, I wasn’t active during the time I was at 4 p.m.,” Trump said, referring to the White House address. “I would say I was an inactive president, and now I’m active again.”
By contrast, Trump swore in court filings last week that he “specifically denies the definition of the ‘Trump Organization'” and “all allegations” that he was ever an inactive president of the company during his four years in public office.
At the bottom of the 300-page document, Trump signed his name in his usual thick black marker under an acknowledgment that said his list of answers “is true to the best of [his] own current knowledge.’
Lying in court documents is a red line that can lead to hefty fines and a serious blow in court.
On Tuesday, the lawyer in the AG’s office handling the case asked the judge to drag Trump back into court to punish them for pulling off the stunt — and not give them a second chance.
“The court has already admonished the defendants and their attorneys for continuing to rely on frivolous legal claims, but has exercised its discretion not to impose such sanctions,
“after he had said his piece.” However, this point does not appear to have been taken up [AG’s office] will ask the court to reopen the matter,” attorney Kevin Wallace wrote.