Donald Trump faced a double blow as a Manhattan judge on Friday scolded the former president’s lawyers and ruled he must face trial for fraud – hours before the Trump-era ban on bump stocks was struck down.
Judge Arthur Engoron said lawyers for Trump and his Trump Organization ‘should have known better’ than to recycle what he said were frivolous, meritless arguments in paperwork seeking the dismissal of New York Attorney General Letitia James´ lawsuit.
James, a Democrat, sued Trump, his adult children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka and the Trump Organization last September and is seeking $250 million and a permanent ban on the former president doing business in New York state.
The news of the fraud case came hours before a Trump administration ban on bump stocks – devices that enable a shooter to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons after an initial trigger pull – was struck down by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
The ban was instituted after a gunman perched in a high-rise hotel using bump stock-equipped weapons massacred dozens of people in Las Vegas in 2017.
A New York judge said former President Trump faces a lawsuit by the state Attorney General accusing him fraudulently overvaluing his real estate company’s assets and own net worth
In the fraud case, Judge Arthur Engoron criticized the Trump lawyers throughout his nine-page decision
In the fraud case, Judge Arthur Engoron criticized the Trump lawyers throughout his nine-page decision, even quoting baseball great Yogi Berra by writing that the bulk of their arguments – including Trump’s oft-repeated claim that the lawsuit was part of a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ – were ‘deja vu all over again.’
Engoron rejected defense claims that James waited too long to sue, fell short of establishing fraud, and should have better justified the $250 million of damages she is seeking.
He also said Ivanka Trump could be sued despite her claims she had not falsified valuations and not worked for the Trump Organization since 2017, saying she could be liable for participating in ‘continuing wrongs.’
The judge also decided not to sanction the defendants for making arguments including that James was pursuing a political ‘witch hunt’ and lacked legal authority to sue.
The lawsuit, filed in September, alleges Trump and the Trump Organization misled banks and others about the value of prized assets, including golf courses and hotels bearing his name
‘Sophisticated defense counsel should have known better,’ Engoron wrote nonetheless.
The lawsuit, filed in September, alleges Trump and the Trump Organization misled banks and others about the value of prized assets, including golf courses and hotels bearing his name.
‘Once again, Donald Trump’s attempts to evade the law have been rejected,’ James said in a statement.
‘We sued Mr. Trump because we found that he engaged in years of extensive financial fraud to enrich himself and cheat the system. Today’s decision makes clear that Donald Trump is not above the law and must answer for his actions in court.’
She also wants to stop the Trumps from running businesses in New York, and ban Trump and his company from acquiring real estate there for five years. An October 2 trial is scheduled.
Trump lawyer Alina Habba said they are planning to appeal Engoron’s ruling, just the latest he’s made against Trump or Trump-related interests while presiding over matters related to the lawsuit and an underlying investigation into his company.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump, a Republican, doing business in the state
Last year, Engoron held Trump in contempt and fined him $110,000 after he was slow to turn over documents.
He also forced him to sit for a deposition with James’ investigators. In that testimony, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
In November, Engoron said he was appointing an independent monitor ‘to ensure there is no further fraud’ at the Trump Organization, restricting its ability to freely make deals, sell assets and change its corporate structure while the lawsuit is pending.
The lawsuit is one of many legal woes affecting Trump, who is seeking another term as president in 2024.
They include criminal investigations related to the FBI’s seizure of government documents from his Florida home, and his role in efforts to overturn or interfere with 2020 presidential election results.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is also conducting a criminal probe relating to James’ civil case, and the Trump Organization faces a January 13 sentencing after being convicted of tax fraud in another New York case
The case revealed how The Trump Organization was helping executives dodge taxes on extravagant perks such as apartments and luxury cars.
The company is facing a potential $1.6 million fine and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 13.
A Trump administration ban on bump stocks, devices that enable a shooter to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons after an initial trigger pull, was struck down Friday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans
In the striking of the former Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks – a U.S. appeals banned the devices that allow people to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic guns.
Gun rights advocates had challenged it in multiple courts. The 13-3 ruling at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals is the latest on the issue, which is likely to be decided at the Supreme Court.
The decision doesn’t have an immediate effect on the ban though because the case now moves back to the lower court to decide how to proceed.
The case was somewhat unique because the issue involves not the Second Amendment but the interpretation of federal statutes.
Opponents of the ban argued that bump stocks do not fall under the definition of illegal machine guns in federal law. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says they do, a position now being defended by the Biden administration.
The ban on bump stocks was introduced after a gunman used them in killing 58 people at an October 2017 country music concert in Las Vegas. Pictured, people visit a makeshift memorial honoring the victims of the mass shooting
‘A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of `machinegun´ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,’ Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote in the lead majority opinion.
The court found that the definition of a machinegun – which is set out in two different federal statutes – ‘does not apply to bump stocks.’
The ban had survived challenges at the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the Denver-based 10th Circuit; and the federal circuit court in Washington. A panel of three judges at the 5th Circuit also issued a ruling in favor of the ban, upholding a lower court decision by a Texas federal judge. But the full New Orleans-based court voted to reconsider the case. Arguments were heard September 13.
Bump stocks harness the recoil energy of a semiautomatic firearm so that a trigger ‘resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter,’ according to the ATF.
A bump fire stock attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate
A shooter must maintain constant forward pressure on the weapon with the non-shooting hand, and constant pressure on the trigger with the trigger finger, according to court records.
The full appeals court Friday sided with opponents of the ATF rule. They had argued that the trigger itself functions multiple times when a bump stock is used, so therefore bump stock weapons do not qualify as machine guns under federal law.
They point to language in the law that defines a machine gun as one that fires multiple times with a ‘single function of the trigger.’
Most of the majority also agreed that if the law is ambiguous, it’s up to Congress to address the issue under a court doctrine known as ‘lenity.’
In a dissent, Judge Stephen Higginson disagreed that bump stocks don’t fall under the federal definition of machine guns. And he wrote that the majority’s interpretation of the lenity principle was too broad.
‘Under the majority’s rule, the defendant wins by default whenever the government fails to prove that a statute unambiguously criminalizes the defendant’s conduct,’ Higginson wrote.
Richard Samp, who argued against the rule on behalf of a Texas gun owner, said he was pleased with Friday’s ruling and had expected it after the September arguments.
Judges ruling against the ban were Elrod, Priscilla Richman, Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Carl Stewart, Leslie Southwick, Catharina Haynes, Don Willett, James Ho, Kyle Duncan, Kurt Engelhardt, Cory Wilson and Andrew Oldham.
All but Stewart are Republican appointees to the appeals court.
Higginson’s dissent was joined by judges James Dennis and James Graves.
The case was argued before Judge Dana Douglas, a recent appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden, joined the 5th Circuit.