It was a show-stopper moment in the political show trial of former President Donald Trump.
On the witness stand on Monday in his civil fraud trial in Manhattan, the former New York real estate king and leading 2024 GOP presidential candidate drew a piece of paper from his jacket pocket that he said would end the case once and for all.
Naturally, he wasn’t allowed to read it.
According to the New York Post, the document was likely a disclaimer notice, a kind that’s routine in major financial transactions, that warned potential lenders to the Trump Organization that they needed to conduct their own valuations of Trump properties before deciding to lend the business money.
A $250 million civil suit brought by New York’s politically ambitious Attorney General Letitia James accuses Trump and his business of overvaluing the Trump Organization’s assets in order to borrow money on more favorable terms.
Setting aside the absurdity of a lawsuit that doesn’t even make a claim that any person or entity was victimized — all loans were repaid at the agreed-upon interest.
It’s simply ludicrous to believe that the sharp-eyed money men (and women) of Manhattan’s financial scene were so wet behind the ears that they would lend 10 cents, much less tens of millions of dollars, based solely on the word of the borrower.
It’s even worse to pretend that a state attorney general in a fiscal disaster like New York — a state that’s bleeding population and battered by budget problems — is going to do a better job watching out for private bank money than the extremely highly paid bank managers are going to do.
But James campaigned on a promise of getting Trump, and she’s keeping that promise — no matter what damage it does to the concept of justice under the law in New York.
She’s being abetted in the vendetta by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who has made his disdain for the defendant abundantly clear throughout the proceedings (it’s an opinon Trump clearly returns in spades).
In fact, as Reuters reported in September, Engoron has already ruled on the heart of the case — finding that Trump and his organization are guilty of fraud. What’s being argued now boils down to the penalties.
So, naturally, Engoron had no use for Trump’s reading the disclaimer document.
“I would love to read this, Your Honor, if I could?” Trump said, according to the Post.
“Not at this point, not at this point,” Engoron replied.
“I’m shocked,” Trump answered.
The dispute over the document eventually set off a witness stand eruption by the 45th president.
“He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me!” Trump shouted, pointing at Engoron, according to the Post.
He then included James in his denunciation.
“The fraud is on the court and not on me … the fraud is on her!” he said, the Post reported.
Courtroom outbursts are rarely justified, of course, but if ever one was, it was this one.
At the same time that he decided Trump was guilty of fraud on Sept. 26, Engoron declared that disclaimer statements were no defense, as the Post reported.
Not only do they not “insulate the defendants from liability,” Engoron wrote, according to the Post, but they also “put the onus for accuracy squarely on defendants’ shoulders.”
Whatever the judge’s legal reasoning, that’s pretty much the opposite of reality. The “onus” of a bank’s decision on whether to invest in a business like Trump’s rests on the bank itself, based on documentation that’s far more extensive than the potential borrower’s estimation of his net worth and ability to repay it.
On the stand Monday, Trump made it clear that he thought the disclaimer vindicated him.
“We have a disclaimer clause that says do your own due diligence, don’t under any circumstances count on anything in here,” he said, according to Politico. “If you were borrowing money … they were not really documents that the banks paid much attention to. They looked at the deal, they looked at the asset … but these were not very important.”
The fact that a civil lawsuit is being brought in a case that’s supposedly based on that estimation — as though the bankers who backed Trump just rolled into town on a load of turnips with hay in their hair and a billion dollars in their pockets — is beyond ridicule.
The fact that the judge in the case is disallowing a document that makes that clear to all parties concerned that the borrower’s estimation is not to be trusted puts it in the realm of disgrace.
In a sane world, no attorney general would approach such a case. No judge would let it proceed. And no judge certainly would run the case the way Ergoron has.
It goes without saying, of course, that the judge is a Democrat, as is James, as is the entire power structure in New York City and the state of New York.
It also is a fact of American politics that Donald Trump is the single most visible, influential threat to the power of President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration in Washington.
And Americans are supposed to believe that the party whose calling card is bankruptcy — moral bankruptcy, intellectual bankruptcy and financial bankruptcy — knows more about money than the financial giants of the financial capital of the world — who looked at Trump and his company and decided he was a bet worth taking when they lent him money.
According to the Post, the state is expected to rest its case after its final witness, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, takes the stand on Wednesday, with the proceedings wrapped by mid-December.
Even a show trial needs a curtain at some point.