During closing arguments in the New York civil fraud trial against Donald Trump and his two eldest sons, Trump's attorney Chris Kiss said something remarkable.
“You cannot allow the Attorney General to continue to prosecute a victimless crime and impose the corporate death penalty,” Kiss pleaded with Judge Arthur Engoron. Engron, who has already held Trump responsible for the fraud, is now tasked with determining the penalty for that violation, as well as several remaining counts against the Trumps, including conspiracy and insurance fraud.
Kiss' argument echoes Trump's baseless claim that he defrauded banks.They were happy“To lend credit to his company based on inflated valuations. It's also a dangerous lie. Trump's fraud has harmed and continues to harm many, including Americans who voted to return Trump to the White House.
Laws like the New York law impeached under Trump and his allies are important tools to protect against the spread of corruption in countries where the rule of law is weak. The white-collar violations Trump was found to have committed do not appear to be critical to his criminal responsibility for his actions in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol or to a decision on whether he is constitutionally competent to hold office. Office. But when it comes to holding leaders accountable, they're important so people can trust the institutions they rely on.
Paul Schiff Berman, a law professor at George Washington University, told me that in countries where the rule of law falters, “there is enormous corruption.” “It's hard to do everything. The whole community is running low. You have to know which person to bribe to get the services you need.
A A report released this week by the watchdog Transparency International bears it. The report found that corruption not only thrives in countries with weak government accountability but also hits marginalized citizens the hardest. Don't care about corruption? Try living in Venezuela.
But you don't have to think globally to understand how Trump's fraud affects real people. If you own or work in a capital-intensive business, the value of your home or other property is important to you, or you want adequate services in your community, it affects you.
That's why New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $370 million in fines against Trump and his co-conspirators; She says that is the extent of their ill-gotten gains. He's also calling for Trump to be banned for life from engaging in real estate or working as a corporate executive in New York — a “corporate death sentence,” Kiss complained.
Like James said at the beginning of the trial“No matter how rich or powerful you are, people don't have two laws in this country.”
And let's be clear: Trump has already been found responsible for spending real people's money.
“If the banks can't trust the ratings, if the banks know that the government isn't going to seriously enforce the laws to control that kind of fraud, the banks are going to spend more money on audits,” Berman told me.
As a result, those loans become more difficult for other businesses. Even if they do, those loans can become very expensive. It costs the company, and those costs are passed on to the consumer. The same principle applies to insurance fraud: higher premiums and deductibles, less coverage, less money in Americans' pockets.
That would add to the liability Trump already faces A recent report by court-appointed superintendent Barbara Jones, is tasked with reviewing Trump and his company's financial disclosures to get a full accounting of his business practices. In the report, Jones noted numerous errors and inconsistencies, suggesting that Trump may have evaded nearly $48 million in taxes.
While James has yet to add tax evasion to the list of civil charges in the current case, we already know that Trump has long touted his tax evasion prowess. He has refused to release his tax returns while running for office or while in office, and has bragged that paying little or no taxes “makes me smarter.”
Not to sound like a broken record, but tax evasion costs us all — in the form of higher tax bills as states and municipalities try to recoup losses. Higher taxes drive businesses away, lower property values and increase housing costs. If governments can't make up the shortfall, roads will erode, emergency response times will be delayed, schools will fail and parks will close. Trump thinks he's smart.
It can be difficult to keep up with the flurry of headlines about the wide array of legal landmines in front of the former president. But we must press on, because every lawsuit, every conviction, every fine, and — if they happen — every criminal conviction will be an important reminder of who Trump is and what his actions have proved to be costly. He is not only attacking our democracy. He also robs our pockets.