Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Last Call For Orange Metldown, Con't

NY State Attorney General Tish James has dropped the hammer on Donald Trump, filing a $250 million fraud suit involving the Trump Organization and Trump family.

For 20 years, Donald Trump and his family enriched themselves through "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentations," New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges in a new lawsuit that accuses the Trumps of "grossly" inflating the former president's net worth by billions of dollars and cheating lenders and others with false and misleading financial statements.

The civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks a $250 million judgment and a prohibition on any of the Trumps leading a company in the state of New York.

Among other allegations, the suit claims that the former president's Florida estate and golf resort, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million, but should have been valued at around one-tenth that amount, at $75 million. The suit says that higher valuation was "based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property."

James is referring her findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who could possibly open a criminal investigation into bank fraud, according to a footnote in the lawsuit.

Through "persistent and repeated business fraud," the Trumps convinced banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than deserved, according to the lawsuit, which named the former president, three of his adult children, the company, and two of its executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney.

"Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase -- a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements," the lawsuit said. "The scheme to inflate Mr. Trump's net worth also remained consistent year after year."

Weisselberg last month pleaded guilty to unrelated criminal charges of tax evasion brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which has been conducting a parallel investigation.
And just in time for Manhattan AG Alvin Bragg opening his fraud trial next month against the same Trump Organization.  SDNY US Attorney Damien Williams, and the IRS will also be notified of the case and its evidence, as this could very well turn into both a state and federal tax fraud case against Trump and not just his company.

Trump's in real trouble now. The civil burden of proof is a lot lower than any criminal proceeding would be, meaning that hitting Trump in the pocketbook is very much a real option.

Trump no doubt will fundraise off this, and I expect he'll announce his candidacy in order to force Republicans into pressuring James to drop the case. The only question there is timing.

But for now, the game begins in earnest.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Big Mad Edition

Ol' Vlad, seeing his boys laughed out of huge swaths of Ukraine territory earlier this month, is now promising Even More, Less Trained Russian Troops™ for the Fellas to play with.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of his country’s military Wednesday, calling up reservists in a significant escalation of his war in Ukraine after battlefield setbacks left the Kremlin facing growing pressure to act.

In a rare national address, he also backed plans for Russia to annex occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine, appearing to threaten nuclear retaliation if Kyiv continues its efforts to reclaim that land.

It came just a day after four Russian-controlled areas announced they would stage votes this week on breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia, in a plan Kyiv and its Western allies dismissed as a desperate “sham” aimed at deterring a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops.

Vowing that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect what it considers its territory, Putin accused the West of nuclear blackmail and warned: “This is not a bluff.”

Speaking after him, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said an initial 300,000 reservists would be called up.

Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized, he said. Another clause in the decree, which came into effect immediately, prevents most professional soldiers from terminating their contracts and leaving service until the partial mobilization is no longer in place.
Gosh, I don't understand, I was told the Special Military Operation to Liberate Russians in Ukraine, or Operation SMOL RU, was going fantastically and that Kyiv was going to surrender at any minute. Also, if Putin has to liberate Ukraine by setting the whole country on nuclear fire and liberate them from breathing, well that's a price he's willing to pay, I guess.
He's mad. Big mad.

A month ago I would have at least said he was on the verge of actually capturing the Donbas, but that all fell apart after Biden brought in the HIMARS and suddenly the Russkies are on the run.

Now, Russia *is* winning the economic sanctions war with the EU still, but it's not like he can cut gas to EU any more than the zero Gazprom is delivering now.

We'll see.

Here Comes The (Actual) Judge

Team Trump's hearing today with the Justice Department and Special Master Judge Raymond Dearie did not go very well for them. At all.

After the FBI found highly classified documents inside his Mar-a-Lago home, former President Donald Trump sought review of the materials by a special master. Now that his choice for that position has been appointed, Trump’s attorneys struggled in their efforts to have the review process play out in the way they prefer.

On Tuesday, a skeptical Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie pressed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly on their refusal to disclose whether he declassified any of the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago — and if so, which ones.

“The government gives me prima facie evidence that these are classified documents,” Dearie said, referring to the plain markings on the records. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

Dearie gave Trump’s lawyer James Trusty ample opportunity to explain why his consideration shouldn’t end there.

On the eve of the hearing, Trump’s lawyers had filed a four-page letter urging Dearie to back off from his demand that they disclose declassification arguments.

“We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property,” Trusty wrote in the filing. “Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.”

Dearie said he agreed that Trump’s lawyers have the right to assert that position, but he suggested that they would have to live with the consequences of that course of action.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” the judge said.

Throughout the litigation, top Justice Department officials — including Jay Bratt, the chief of Counterintelligence and Export Control Section in National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez — have noted that Trump’s legal team has danced around the declassification issues. Their legal briefs have not said that Trump declassified any of the documents, which were marked “Top Secret” and above. The lawyers only said that Trump may have declassified them.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the judge needled Trump’s lawyers on what he’s supposed to do in light of the fact that the government provided “prima facie evidence” of classification, such as the markings on the documents.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said

When Dearie spoke offhandedly of lawyers’ “litigation strategy,” Trusty played down the notion that he was engaged in “gamesmanship.” Trusty denied the implication.

Under the terms of the order of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, the special master’s review should be completed some time after Thanksgiving. Trump’s attorneys have asked Dearie to extend the deadline.

Dearie appeared to recognize that he is on a time crunch — and seemed unlikely to budge from it.

“I’m going to do the best I can with the time available to us,” Dearie said.

The Department of Justice has a pending appeal before the 11th Circuit, seeking an emergency stay that would prevent the government from having to disclose the classified documents for review. The stay also seeks to allow them to continue scrutinizing the documents in their ongoing criminal investigation.
This entire exercise is a woeful disaster, and Dearie seems to appreciate that fact. He's clearly not going to let the Trumpies get away with this. None of this would be happening without Judge Aileen Cannon's shameful mess of a ruling earlier this month, and Dearie is stuck being the person of history right now. He's decided to do the best job he can.

We'll see if the 11th Circuit acts on the Justice Department's emergency stay request or not, but it's pretty obvious that the Trumpies are in for a world of hurt from Judge Dearie.
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