Vittert: New York AG makes good on promise, gets Trump on fraud

On Balance with Leland Vittert

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 21: NY Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference at the office of the Attorney General on September 21, 2022 in New York, New York. NY AG James announced today that her office is suing former President Donald J. Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump accusing the family of fraudulent statements of financial conditions to obtain millions in economic benefits. The lawsuit seeks to remove Trump and his children from their roles at their organizations and bans them from future leadership roles in the state of NY and repay $250 million that was illegally obtained. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — An honest politician, something we don’t get to celebrate that very often. So mark the the day: Sept. 21, 2022.

New York Attorney General Letitia James fulfilled her longtime campaign promise of taking down former President Donald Trump.

“Claiming you have money you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal,” James said. “There cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state.”

It’s only fair we give her real credit, not only did she fulfill her campaign promise, she gave up running for New York governor to do it.

After a three-year investigation, she brought civil, not criminal charges — curious — against former President Trump, and his children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka.

Alleging a massive fraud, James wants to bar the Trumps from serving as executives of any company operating in New York.

As evidence in the 280-plus page complaint, she points to a pattern of behavior between 2011 and 2015 where Trump and his employees wildly overvalued their assets on disclosure forms and would then change their valuation methods as it suited them.

For example, Trump’s own triplex apartment in New York’s Trump Tower: Built in 1983; 10,996 square feet. Its valuation: 30,000 square feet; $29,738/month = $327 million total.

It was valued as being 30,000 square feet when it was 10,996 square feet, meaning in 2015, the apartment was valued at $327 million in total, or $29,738 per square foot.

At the time, only one apartment in New York City had ever sold for $1 million, and in the decades-old Trump Tower, the record sale is a measly $16.5 million.

There are lots of examples, but James said Trump valued his club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, as a real estate development. Except Trump had signed away the development rights.

The club generated annual revenue of less than $25 million and should have been valued at about $75 million. However, Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million.

And let’s be honest, does anybody believe Trump didn’t do this? It certainly sounds like him. In a different time of life, I knew some of his bankers, and they would laugh as his disclosure forms.

Here is an old deposition from a 2007 lawsuit when Trump sued New York Times reporter Timothy O’Brien.

O’Brien wrote a book “”Trumpnation: the Art of Being The Donald,” alleging Trump wasn’t nearly as rich as Trump claimed.

That might work on an episode of “The Apprentice,” but not on official and tax documents when the attorney general of New York is out to get you.

Those last few words are the most important. Out to get you. Our justice system wasn’t created to get people. What’s the phase? “The rule of law.” You’ve heard about it a lot lately, and it’s what makes us different than, say, Russia, where the state rules with an iron fist and officials can go get you.

It’s best described by Lavrentiy Beria, for a long time the most feared man in Russia and head of the secret police under Josef Stalin. He famously said, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” Which sounds an awful lot like Letitia James during her campaign.

So, points for being honest and keeping your campaign promises. Most politicians aren’t honest and don’t keep their promises.

But nobody is above the law. The law is supposed to be equal and not a way to settle political scores once someone is in office. That’s what they do in Russia, not in America. At least, it’s not supposed to happen in America.

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