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Trump’s best defense in NY lawsuit? ‘Delay, delay, delay,’ ex-prosecutors say

NY Attorney General Letitia James organized a solid legal case against Donald Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump Organization in her $250 million civil lawsuit however the former president might be able to drag the legal action out for quite some time, former prosecutors told NBC News.

“That is going to be considered a very hard case for the defendants to win,” said Duncan Levin, a former assistant district attorney and asset forfeiture chief in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. “Among the best defenses to the matter would be to delay, delay, delay.”

The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, filed suit contrary to the Trumps and top executives at their company the other day regarding the her yearslong probe into its business practices. The suit alleged a lot more than 200 cases of fraud over 10 years and efforts by Trump that “wildly exaggerated his net worth by vast amounts of dollars.”

James is wanting to permanently bar members of the Trump family from serving as officers of New York-based companies, and also money damages along with other penalties, including a five-year ban on the former president and his company from getting into any commercial property acquisitions in hawaii.

Here are a few possible defenses Trump’s lawyers may attempt:

‘Lets stall this’

John Moscow, former deputy chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s investigations division, said he could “visit a projected defense strategy of saying, ‘Let’s stall this.'”

Delay is definitely in the defendants favor and allows Trump to take pleasure from the fruits of his alleged scheme so long as possible, unless the courts make an effort to hold his feet to the fire, said Moscow, now a white-collar defense lawyer, adding these forms of cases “can continue forever.”

Judges should at this stage understand that he could be “not seeking his day in court, Moscow said, pointing to Trump’s history of drawing out litigation with numerous motions and appeals.

Defendants in NY can simply use various stalling tactics, Levin said, and good lawyering can draw these exact things out for quite some time.

It is a ‘witch hunt’

Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He and his lawyer, Alina Habba, have called James’ lawsuit a politically motivated “witch hunt.” They used that argument in a lawsuit filed in federal court late this past year wanting to stop the probe, contending that it had been guided solely by political animus and a need to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against an exclusive citizen who she views as a political opponent.

To strengthen the claim, they pointed to disparaging statements James had made about Trump including that she toldNBC Newsafter her 2018 election she planned to utilize all areas of regulations to research” transactions created by the Trump family and their business.

A judge dismissed that suit in-may, discovering that the AG’s probe had the best factual” basis, but Trump and his lawyers and allies have continued their attempts to undermine the credibility of James’ investigation in remarks to the general public.

If Trump is re-elected in 2024, Moscow said, he might even seek to delay the lawsuit throughout his next potential term by re-invoking past arguments he’s got manufactured in other lawsuits surrounding presidential power.

Their number 1 defense is in the court of public opinion,” Levin added.

New York Attorney General Letitia James
NY Attorney General Letitia James speaks throughout a press conference in NY on Sept. 21, 2022.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

‘Never had a complaint’

In posts on social media marketing and an interview with Fox News following the suit was filed, Trump began installation of their own defenses to the AG’s claims. He argued that there surely is no allegation that the supposedly duped banks and insurers were harmed and that the financial statements included disclosures saying that they had not been audited.

James, Trump wrote on Truth Social, “is spending most of her time fighting for very powerful and well represented banks and insurance firms, who have been fully paid, made lots of money, rather than had a complaint about me.”

However the former prosecutors say those arguments are unlikely to achieve court because James will never have to prove harm suffered by any victims for Trump to reduce the case.

Having less damages may be a mitigating factor for Trump as it pertains time for a judge to select financial penalties, nonetheless it wouldn’t get him off the hook, Levin said. Because the banks got repaid their money “doesnt mean a crime hasnt been committed.”

Moscow noted that the suit which alleges Trump and his company violated a NY law targeting those that commit repeated fraud or illegal acts running a business transactions doesnt actually seek money damages with respect to the banks and insurance firms.

It can, however, seek a fix that could require Trump to stop the gains he pocketed from his alleged illegal or wrongful conduct conducts, including inflating his financial statements to obtain additional favorable loans and lower premiums.

Blame it on the banks

A route that Trump usually takes with some success, Levin said, is heaping blame on the banks for not noticing that the valuations were too rosy.

“The core of this argument may be the financial statements which were relied upon by these banks were marked as non-audited financials,” Levin said. “As the AG is making the statement that the valuations are far outside what they must be, another part may be the individuals who were on the receiving end of the financial statements were sophisticated Wall Street banks. They understand how to read these financial statements.”

But that’s unlikely to provide Trump a win, Levin continued, as James’ “incredibly thorough” complaint alleges that the business had falsely claimed their statements were prepared in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles, and several of the valuations were so outsized including saying a house valued at $200 million on Wall Street was worth over $500 million they couldnt reasonably be looked at honest mistakes or typical accounting tricks.

“It will likely be very hard to overcome a few of that,” Levin said of the inflated financial statements.

Moscow also believes that Trump and his company will battle to explain away a lot of their alleged misrepresentations, such as for example his declare that his Trump Tower apartment was 30,000 square feet when it had been really 10,000 square feet.

Trump could have been well alert to how big is the apartment because he built it. He lived there,” the former prosecutor said.

The civil suit may be the culmination of a years-long investigation by James’ office in to the Trump Organization’s business practices, where the former president and his son, Eric Trump, used their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination a huge selection of times to evade deposition by investigators. (Sources have told NBC News that neither Ivanka Trump nor Donald Trump Jr. claimed the privilege throughout their depositions.)

While taking the Fifth cant be utilized against a defendant in criminal court, asserting the privilege in NY civil cases may be used to take a detrimental inference contrary to the person testifying.

Trump has previously experienced the crosshairs of the attorney generals office, including actions involving Trump University and the Trump Foundation, that have been settled for $25 million and $2 million, respectively.

Asked if she hoped to stay the business enterprise fraud case, James told reporters this week that while she’s already rejected settlement offers from Trump’s side, her “door is definitely open” to attain an agreement out of court.

Trump indicated that’s not likely, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity within an interview Wednesday, I didnt desire to settle because how will you, even though I paid an extremely bit, youre type of admitting guilt.”

Editor’s note: Duncan Levin represented former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg’s ex-daughter-in-law, who turned over evidence concerning the familys finances to the AG and the DAs office this past year.

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