The Trump family is risking the future of their real estate empire in the New York courts

Donald Trump’s judicial horizon, with four serious and historic charges, is at the center of his campaign for next year’s presidential elections. But the mogul is not taking any of those cases, for which he is accused of a total of 91 crimes, as seriously as the civil fraud trial he faces in New York. Since his inception in early October, he has already gone to court seven times despite not being required to, staging what he considers his most personal case. And it is no wonder: the accusation of continued fraud against the Trump Organization appeals directly to his image as a successful businessman, to the assets of his real estate empire and to the inheritance and legal record of his children.

After two former allies turned enemies – his former lawyer Michael Cohen and former financial director Allen Weisselberg – testified last week, this Wednesday it was the turn of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and this Thursday he was followed by Eric Trump . Both are accused along with their father, as vice presidents of the company, of inflating financial assets to obtain better conditions when requesting loans. According to the district attorney, Letitia James, they would have increased the valuations of their properties by $2.2 billion between 2011 and 2021, thereby obtaining advantageous loans from banks and insurers.

Next Monday the former president will testify, for the first time under oath, and on Wednesday his daughter Ivanka, who was initially also accused, but finally the judge, Arthur Engoron, discarded the evidence against her. “Leave my children alone,” Trump posted on his social network, Truth Social, referring to the magistrate: “you are a disgrace to the profession,” he added.

The Trump family, accustomed to public exposure due to their appearance on the television program The Apprentice and for her destructive role in American politics, she is more exposed than ever in this trial. The judge has already ruled that they are guilty of creating a scheme to commit financial fraud on the state of New York. What must be resolved in the coming weeks is whether the fraud was on purpose and, especially, the size of the penalty that Trump, his two children and his company deserve to pay.

Much more is at stake than their image: the prosecutor has asked the judge to prohibit Trump and his children from running businesses, buying real estate and taking out loans in New York, and to impose a fine of $250 million on them. That is to say, in practice it seeks to expel the real estate empire from the state that saw it flourish, as the judge has ruled, fraudulently.

Among other assets, Engoron has already ruled that the Trump Organization manipulated the valuations of the iconic Trump Tower, where the magnate made the leap into politics when launching his first electoral campaign. Also from other properties, such as Trump Park Avenue, 40 Wall Street, 1290 Avenida de las Américas or the Hudson Valley and Westchester golf clubs. If the trial, which has already started with a goal against, ends in a landslide, Trump could lose control over all this assets.

A family empire: the role of Trump’s children

Of the five children Trump has had in his three marriages, only Donald, Ivanka and Eric – the three oldest and children of his first wife Ivana – have held an important position in the Trump Organization. And although James charged all three, Judge Engoron only found Donald and Eric responsible for fraud.

Don Jr. (45 years old), who declared this Wednesday, is the most interested in politics and a habitual arsonist on social networks, before the cameras of conservative media and on his podcast Triggered with Don Jr., which publishes twice a week on the Rumble platform. But he is also on the front line of the family business: as executive vice president alongside his brother Eric, he is part of the group of senior officials with decision-making over the finances of the Trump Organization.

After graduating in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, he soon entered the family empire, where in two decades he has closed the purchase and lease of important properties that are now in question, such as Trump Tower or the 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. After his father was elected president in 2016, Don Jr. signed financial statements that the judge alleges were key to the scheme to commit fraud. Those statements, which inflated the value of several properties by hundreds of millions of dollars, were then given to banks and insurers to obtain credit advantages.

“I don’t know anything about general accounting principles, I leave that to my accountants” because “I trust their evaluations to make decisions,” Don Trump has defended himself when faced with the judge’s questions. In a session without video cameras, journalists present in the room report that he has testified ambiguously about his role in the company: “I did a little bit of everything, from design, sales, marketing, finance, construction, whatever.” And he has limited himself to answering “I don’t remember” to most of the judge’s questions, an option that in state cases is more favorable than taking advantage of the fifth amendment and not testifying.

For his part, Eric (39 years old), Trump’s third son, is the most involved of all in the family business, is less interested in politics than his older brother and is the one who maintains the most recurring contact with his father. As vice president of development and acquisitions, this Thursday he was more combative than his brother before Judge Engoron.

Like Donald Jr., Eric Trump has insisted he had nothing to do with the valuations and has held accountants, both inside and outside the company, responsible. “They had more information and details about all this than I could have,” he said, “I was not aware of anything until this case was successful.”

However, the prosecutor’s office has shown him emails that would prove the opposite, in which the accountants ask him for property information to make their valuations. And the evidence presented above proves that both brothers signed documents giving detailed information to Mazars, the outside company they worked with for accounting.

With a degree in finance from Georgetown University, he entered the Trump Organization at a very young age and in 2017, when his father began his career in the White House, he gave him responsibility at the helm of the company. Since then, Eric is the one who really runs the day-to-day life of the real estate empire, and has accompanied his father to the Manhattan court on several occasions. This Thursday he confirmed, in response to questions from the prosecution, that the Trump Organization “has a pyramidal hierarchy” with his father at the head: “I work with many people, but I report to my father.”

The judge will ask him this Thursday about his relationship with David McArdle, one of the appraisers hired by the company to manipulate its valuations, who on October 18 declared that he had maintained contact with Eric. So far, Trump’s son has claimed not to know McCardle and has defended himself by saying that he is “a type of cement”, that is, that his father trusted him with the management of the properties, but not control of the books. of the company or the valuation of buildings: “I am not an accountant, I am not an expert in valuations. I don’t pretend to be any of those things. “I manage and build properties, that’s what I dedicate myself to,” he said.

Finally, Ivanka (42 years old), who was vice president of the company, stopped being vice president in 2017, when her father gave her a public salary and an office on the second floor of the White House, where she started working, along with her husband Jared Kushner, as advisor to the president. Although she at the time sounded like Trump’s most likely successor at the helm of his real estate empire, Ivanka has remained outside the company in recent years. In fact, that was what saved her from the sentence against her in this case, even though she was initially accused by prosecutor James.

Trump’s second daughter has also retreated from the political scene since her father lost the election, and did not even attend his official campaign announcement last November. “I will always love and support my father, but from now on I will do so outside the political arena,” she justified then through her Instagram account. She also tried to avoid testifying in the case at hand, claiming that she was not involved in the day-to-day running of the company, but the judge forced her to do so in person anyway.

Next Wednesday, November 8, he must answer for his relationship with Rosemary Vrablic, a Deutsche Bank worker with whom he allegedly negotiated the conditions of $350 million in loans in 2011. In the documentation provided by the prosecutor, an email was included in which Vrablic told her bosses that “Ivanka Trump will become a safe client. “She is the heir apparent to this empire.” Although neither this nor other evidence was enough for the judge to rule against her, he will still testify next week.

A blow to Trump’s identity

The former president became a celebrity by selling himself as a self-made man, but that image of a successful businessman does not match that of one who invents the value of his assets to prosper by committing fraud. As the judge has certified, much of Trump’s wealth – who has declared up to six bankruptcies in his life – was built artificially: he inflated the value of his properties to obtain loans, which he then invested in new properties, whose value he also manipulated. , and so on.

The other cases weighing on the magnate, whose trials will also coincide with the electoral campaign, are much more serious than financial fraud and could land him in jail. He is accused of trying to rig the result of the presidential election in Georgia, of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after losing the elections, of having taken and retained hundreds of classified documents to his private club in Florida when he left the White House and of falsifying, in the middle of the election campaign, tax documents to hide the bribe to actress Stormy Daniels, with whom he had had an extramarital relationship.

However, the victimhood that he has brought to light in all these cases, accusing the judicial system and the supposed “deep state” of committing a “witch hunt” against him, is giving him political gain. At the moment, Trump strongly leads the Republican primary polls, with 57.6% of support (40 points above the second place, Ron DeSantis), and is practically tied with his more than likely rival on November 5 of 2024, Joe Biden.

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