DDonald Trump’s bad luck continues. On Thursday afternoon, Arthur Engoron, a Manhattan judge, approved subpoenas issued to Trump, favorite child Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr, by Tish James, the New York Attorney General. The court ruling follows a decision by Trump accountants to leave the president for one term and disavow years of financial statements released by his company.
Just as the Trump trio tried, they were unable to end James’ investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices, which could lead to a civil suit by James. Unlike a criminal prosecution, a civil action carries a lower burden of proof for the government. Meanwhile, civil lawsuits can drag on — like until 2024. Barring a stay, Trump and his two children have been ordered to appear for deposition within 21 days.
If they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who knows what liability may result? On the other hand, if they invoke their right to remain silent, they are likely to be portrayed as criminals.
“See, the mob is taking the Fifth,” Trump observed on the campaign trail in 2016. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
Time flies. And if the Trump family refuses to appear in deposition or just stay mums when grilled, they risk being held in contempt, a distinction currently held by Steve Bannon, Trump’s White House adviser and guru of the 2016 campaign.
Right now, Trump must be sweating while his lenders must be shaking their heads collectively. How much Trump is worth and how much worse things can get are no longer hypothetical questions. In the absence of operational financial statements, restructurings and alleged bank failures have spilled over into the realm of reality.
As one Trump insider put it, “Hey, this could be serious.” Could Donald Trump [and his business] be screwed? I don’t know, but I’m not as sure of myself as I was before saying “No”.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential hopefuls of 2024 are likely stifling a collective smirk. Trump’s legal woes risk widening the Republican Party’s presidential field, and for some, that’s downright personal.
For Mike Pence, Trump’s hapless Vice President, these recent developments may well trigger a sense of schadenfreude. Not too long ago, Trump loyalists came with a makeshift gallows for Pence as they stormed the Capitol, and Trump said nothing to dissuade the crowd. Instead, he demanded loyalty from his No. 2.
As for Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, Trump’s troubles couldn’t come at a better time. Trump almost called DeSantis a coward for refusing to admit whether or not he was vaccinated. Beyond that, Florida’s recent Covid death rate per capita is the seventh highest in the United States, and DeSantis struggles to speak out against neo-Nazi violence.
“So what I’m going to say is these people, these Democrats trying to use this as some kind of political issue to try to smear me like I had something to do with this,” the governor said. of the Sunshine State. “We don’t play their game.”
To be sure, Trump’s Maga base would stick with him through thick and thin. The party’s deep-pocketed donors are another story. Trump may have given them a treasure trove of tax cuts and ambassadors, but he is emotionally draining.
Beyond that, his antics in the run-up to Georgia’s 2020 election have cost Republicans control of the Senate. There are reasons why Mitch McConnell is rejecting Trump’s lie that the election was stolen and is seeking to circumvent the 45th president.
Thursday’s decision was scathing. At one point, the court concluded that the attorney general had uncovered “extensive evidence of possible financial fraud.” Elsewhere, the judge excoriated Trump & Co for their flight to fantasy and fiction, invoking Alice in Wonderland, 1984, and Kellyanne Conway in one sentence.
“The idea that an accounting firm’s announcement that no one should trust a decade of financial statements it has issued based on figures submitted by an entity somehow exonerates that entity and renders useless an inquiry into his past practices is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll (‘When I use a word Humpty Dumpty said…it means exactly what I choose to say – no more no less’); George Orwell (“The war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”); and “alternative facts”.
In the past, Trump has weathered storms surrounding his finances and credibility. Trump University hasn’t stopped the former reality TV host’s political rise. What happens next remains to be seen.
Right now, Joe Biden’s poll numbers are in the low 40s, inflation is down, and Nancy Pelosi is about to lose the President’s gavel. Against this chart, Trump poses a distraction from Republican ambitions, an unwelcome detour from the intended outcome.