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Trump's Golden Tower of Fraud
Plus: Numbed America
Before the Insurrection; before the Big Lie….
Before birtherism and the conspiracy theories; before “good people on both sides”; before Trump U and the fake border wall….
Before reality television; before Sharpiegate; before he sucked up to Vladimir Putin….
Before he stole classified documents and obstructed justice; before he dined with neo-Nazis at Mar-a-Lago; before he bragged about grabbing pussies and was found liable for rape….
Before he suggested injecting bleach to cure Covid; and before the whole shambolic presidency and its fetid aftermath… there was the fraud that built it all.
The whole gaudy superstructure of golden toilets; the real estate empire fabricated on paper; the serial business failures and frauds were all a racket in plain sight, tottering on inflated values, stiffed contractors, and unpaid taxes.
The Art of the Deal was the Ur-lie, from which flowed everything else.
“I marvel at people who don't realize Donald is, and always has been, a con man who lies, cheats, steals, and got away with it using threats of ruinous legal action, etc.,” longtime Trump observer David Cay Johnston wrote yesterday, after a New York judge dropped on a hammer on The Don.
NEW YORK (AP) — A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House, and he ordered some of the former president’s companies removed from his control and dissolved.
Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.
Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.
As attorney George Conway explained on CNN Tuesday, the partial summary judgment ruling “is the equivalent of the corporate death penalty for the Trump organization in the state of New York.”
And for those of you keeping track at home:
Justice Engoron ruled that Trump family members had a "propensity to engage in persistent fraud," and had lied for years about the company’s net worth, and inflated the value of his real estate portfolio.
Engoron wrote in his order that Trump, his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., and the other defendants fraudulently inflated the value of properties including Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida and his own triplex apartment in New York City, as well as 40 Wall Street, Trump Park Avenue, multiple golf courses, and an estate in upstate New York.
The judge found that the evidence was so overwhelming that there was no need to go to trial. Some of the property values inflated by Trump Crime Family:
Trump’s 5th Avenue apartment in Trump Tower, which was inflated by as much as $200 million—Trump claimed it was triple its actual size.
Trump claimed Mar-a-Lago was worth $600 million, but the judge determined it was worth only $27 million.
The judge agreed with NY AG Letitia James that Trump had overstated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion—duping organizations like banks and insurance companies into giving them better terms than deserved.
In his order, Justice Engoron called bullshit on Trump’s explanations and defenses, calling them “bogus” and “deceptive,’” and that his denials were straight out of “fantasy world.”
What does all this mean? The Daily Beast notes that “Trump Basically Just Lost the New York Bank Fraud Case Before It Even Started.”
Even before the trial officially starts, the ruling handed New York Attorney General Letitia James a near total victory, meaning that next week’s trial will mostly focus on damages that could pulverize whatever is left of Trump’s many business entities and bank accounts.
In practical terms, writes David Cay Johnston, the order means that Donald J. Trump “is no longer in business.”
Worse, the self-proclaimed multibillionaire may soon be personally bankrupt as a result, stripped of just about everything because for years he engaged in calculated bank fraud and insurance fraud by inflating the value of his properties, a judge ruled Tuesday.
His gaudy Trump Tower apartment, his golf courses, his Boeing 757 jet and even Mar-a-Lago could all be disposed of by a court-appointed monitor, leaving Trump with not much more than his pensions as a one term president and a television performer.
On Earth 2.0, this would be stunning news and certainly disqualifying for anyone seeking a position of public trust. But for Trump, it’s merely an asterisk. Almost of all of this was known, part of the bargain the GOP has made since 2016.
Indeed, Trump’s grift and greed seems almost quaint compared with his more recent parade of horribles — and the looming threat they pose to the American experiment.
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ICYMI: My colleague Tim Miller asked the key question yesterday: “Where Is the Trump Panic?”
We’ve all been subjected to weeks of Democratic bed-wetting and agita over Joe Biden’s age and poll numbers. But, he asks, where is the parallel alarm in the GOP over the prospect of nominating a fraudster, rapist, and seditionist?
Yes, Trump is also old, and sure, it would be nice for The Media to mention that from time to time. But the real exasperation simmering underneath goes something like this:
SURE BIDEN IS OLD BUT THE OTHER CANDIDATE IS A FELONIOUS MANIAC WHO ATTEMPTED A COUP AND HAS SAID HE WANTS TO END THE CONSTITUTION AND ASSASSINATE HIS POLITICAL ENEMIES. WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE—REPUBLICANS, THE MEDIA, MY FATHER, ANYONE!!!!—PANICKING ABOUT THAT INSTEAD?!
That is the issue flummoxing me of late.
Look at this screengrab from yesterday’s Drudge Report which offers a little taste of the American Carnage that Trump has planned.
Those headlines read like they are from a dystopian, authoritarian fantasy world, not the American democratic republic we grew up in. Shutting down media outlets. Killing disfavored generals.
Any human of any ideological stripe who is capable of looking at that news rundown with the slightest discernment must concur that Trump needs to be stopped. Which is why it’s the absence of Trump panic in GOP discourse that is the outlier, not the reasonable ongoing discussion about the best course for President Biden coming from the left.
Over at the Dispatch, Nick Catoggio, the pundit formerly known as Allahpundit, also worries that we have become “uncomfortably numb,” to Trump’s madness, even though it is clearly getting worse.
The task before us now, he writes, is somehow “to resist numbness.”
Because despite all the blather about Biden and Trump being the two most known ‘known quantities’ in politics, we actually don’t know how dangerous and destabilizing Trump might prove to be as his mind bends under the strain of an election and four indictments. Or whether it’ll break entirely once he’s back in power and surrounded by the most obsequious fascist toadies he can find.”
In Vanity Fair, Molly Jong-Fast also cautions against sleepwalking into another trump presidency.
I can’t speak to what lurks in the hearts of political reporters and editors, but one has to wonder why there isn’t more coverage about Trump musing about sentencing the nation’s highest ranking general to death than, say, the age of the current president…
Oddly, Trump’s dangerous rant was not treated as the major news it absolutely should have been. “Only CNN and MSNBC covered Trump’s inflammatory Truth Social post about the general,” Media Matters noted Tuesday, “while broadcast news outlets and Fox News completely ignored it.”
The Politics of Atonement
Cassidy Hutchinson atones. Bob Menendez refuses.
Plus: the government shutdown about nothing; MAGA’s war on (checks notes) Taylor Swift. Will Saletan joined me for a slightly delayed episode of Charlie and Will Monday.
BONUS: Bulwark Goes to Austin
Mona, Tim, Bill and I participated in a live panel at the Texas Tribune Festival. Bulwark + members can listen to the whole thing here: Plus, Mona recounts her chance encounter with Joe Manchin. Is he a threat to Biden's 2024 reelection or not?
Wait, there’s a debate tonight?
Let’s get this out of the way: All eyes will not be on tonight’s GOP presidential debate.
Trump will once again be a no-show, and that is also the new abnormal in the Republican Party. As The NYT’s Nate Cohn noted yesterday, the absent Orange God King was the “one big winner” of the first debate.
He has gained more support in the post-debate polls than any other candidate, even though he didn’t appear onstage last month. He’s up 3.5 percentage points in a direct comparison between polls taken before and after the debate by the same pollsters. Only Nikki Haley — up 1.5 points across the seven national pollsters — can also claim to have gained a discernible amount of ground.
This basic lesson from the first debate might just be the most important thing to keep in mind heading into the second Republican debate Wednesday night. Candidates might be flashy. They might be broadly appealing. They might hit MAGA notes. But after the last debate, there’s that much less reason to think this one will make a big difference in the race. It might even add up to helping Mr. Trump, by splintering his potential opposition.
Meanwhile, in ever-shrinking DeSantis world…
Puck’s Tina Nguyen reports: “Ahead of the second Republican debate, the DeSantis camp is plagued by growing doubts among donors and allies that their biggest unspoken problem may be the candidate, not the campaign.”
If only they had been warned.
1. Risk of a US Government Shutdown Is Fueled by Very Online Republicans
WASHINGTON’S BIGGEST PROBLEM these days isn’t partisanship. It’s that far-right lawmakers are living in their own reality.
Extremist Republicans have broken off from the rest of their party to create an alternate universe in which they’re in charge, empowered by Donald Trump’s followers. This disconnect is fueling an internal GOP fight in the US House of Representatives that has the federal government careening toward a shutdown at midnight on Sunday, October 1. As he claws and scrapes in an attempt to negotiate federal spending legislation, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy seems to be realizing that his rank-and-file Republicans now occupy a different universe than everyone else….
The meme-centric culture that swept former president Donald Trump into power is now increasingly mainstream in the Republican Party. On the surface, McCarthy’s struggle is to persuade an estimated seven to 10 conservatives to avert a government shutdown. In reality, the speaker’s battling against a nameless army of tens of thousands of angry antiestablishment voices whose frustrations have increasingly become Republican orthodoxy and mirrored by the powerhouses of conservative media—many of whom remain niche figures, even as they’re followed by hundreds of thousands of fans.
2. American Democracy Requires a Conservative Party
The current GOP is not so much conservative as it is reactionary: Today’s right-wing voters are a loose movement of various groups, but especially of white men, obsessed with a supposedly better past in which they were not the aggrieved minority they see themselves as today. These reactionary voters, as I have written recently, are reflexively countercultural: They reject almost everything in the current social and political order because everything around them is the product of the hated now that has displaced the sacred then.