New York’s Attorney General is planning to put the Trumps and their family company on trial for business fraud next year, according to a letter the AG’s office submitted in court on Thursday.
In that Thursday court filing, New York AG Letitia James’ office disclosed its intention to fast-track its new $250 million civil lawsuit against the Trump Organization, citing it as a reason why the case should remain in the hands of the New York state judge who is already intimately familiar with the investigation.
“OAG intends to seek an expedited preliminary conference to set a trial date before the end of 2023. Allowing for an expedited trial schedule on an enforcement proceeding after extensive litigation over subpoena enforcement is precisely the circumstance that warrants keeping this case before Justice Engoron in the interests of judicial economy,” wrote assistant attorney general Kevin Wallace, one of the investigators on the case.
Former President Donald Trump and the heirs to his real estate and marketing empire—Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—engaged in delay tactics that severely slowed down the investigation for years, repeatedly refusing to turn over documents or show up for sworn testimony. Their resistance earned the scorn of Justice Arthur F. Engoron, who often had to intervene and order them to comply.
The Trumps are now trying to avoid Engoron presiding over that new lawsuit, claiming the case should instead go to another judge in the New York state court system’s commercial division. The former president’s personal lawyer, Alina Habba, submitted a court letter on Wednesday that accused the Office of the Attorney General of taking steps to avoid having the case reassigned.
“The OAG’s actions appear to be nothing less than a deliberate attempt to circumvent the rules of the Individual Assignment System and to ‘judge shop,’” Habba wrote.
Additionally, Trump’s lawyer seems to be arguing that the lengthy court battles over evidence and testimony are wholly unrelated to the lawsuit that resulted from that very investigation.
In her letter, Habba went as far as claiming the AG made a mistake when it filed the new lawsuit’s paperwork by “erroneously listing a prior proceeding as a ‘related’ action.”
“There is no question that the two matters are related,” Wallace countered in a letter on Thursday. “Judicial economy is especially well served by leaving this case with Justice Engoron. For more than two years he has overseen the conduct of the investigation that led to this enforcement proceeding.”
To bolster that argument, the AG’s office pointed out how Engoron has made clear he has a close familiarity with the mountain of evidence in this case. At a court hearing in February, for example, Engoron said there were “600 and some odd documents in this case. I’m fairly familiar with all of them.”
Although the eventual trial is civil, not criminal, it could still be damaging for the Trumps and their aspirations for a political comeback. Ever since his departure from the White House in 2021, Trump has hinted at a second run for president, raising more than $100 million for his various Political Action Committees and using his sway to endorse far-right Republicans running for Congress.
The James case, however, seeks to strip the Trump Organization of its business credentials and bar it from borrowing money from any bank in New York—arguably the financial capital of the world. On top of that, a $250 million verdict against the company and its top officers could severely harm Trump’s finances and choke off the very corporation that propelled him into national stardom.
In the letter on Thursday, Wallace stressed that this case should continue moving forward at top speed.
“Given the fact that this action involves allegations of an ongoing scheme and conspiracy to obtain millions of dollars through fraudulent activity, and that defendants repeatedly have sought to delay the conclusion of OAG’s investigation, it is imperative that this case proceed quickly,” he wrote.