Trump legal news brief: Letitia James accuses Trump of inflating net worth by billions as former president pleads not guilty in Georgia

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images, Joan Slatkin/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Noam Galai/Getty Images, Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images, Joan Slatkin/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Noam Galai/Getty Images, Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New York state prosecutors asked a judge Wednesday to rule that former President Donald Trump, his adult sons and their family business had inflated Trump’s net worth by billions in order to obtain favorable loan terms. Trump, meanwhile, used a waiver to plead not guilty to election interference charges in Georgia and that state’s governor criticized Republicans seeking to strip the district attorney of her power.

Georgia election interference

Trump pleads not guilty via arraignment waiver, seeks to sever case from other defendants

Key players: Trump lawyer Steven Sadow, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell

  • On Thursday, Trump used a waiver that allowed him to enter a not-guilty plea in the Georgia case without appearing in court in person, the Guardian reported.

  • “As evidenced by my signature below,” said the two-page filing submitted in Fulton County Superior Court by Trump’s lead lawyer, Steven Sadow, “I do hereby waive formal arraignment and enter my plea of NOT GUILTY to the Indictment in this case.”

  • Trump’s lawyers also asked the judge Thursday to sever his case from his co-defendants, two of whom, Chesebro and Powell, are seeking a speedy trial, CNN reported. While Willis has asked the court to begin the trial on Oct. 24, Trump’s lawyers said that won’t give them “sufficient time” to prepare and that the proposed date would “violate President Trump’s federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law.”

  • Trump is charged with 13 felony counts, including a violation of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Why it matters: Fulton County allows defendants to enter a plea virtually or using a waiver, sparing them the requirement to have an in-person arraignment captured on courtroom cameras. Trump is also looking to draw out the start of the trial until after the 2024 presidential election.

Georgia gov. rejects calls to defund Fulton County DA Fani Willis

Key players: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia state Sen. Colton Moore

  • Responding to demands by Moore, a Republican, for the state Senate to vote to defund Willis’s prosecution of Trump, Kemp made clear he was not on board with that idea, the Hill reported.

  • “Up to this point, I have not seen any evidence that DA Willis’s actions or lack thereof warrant action by the prosecuting attorney oversight commission,” Kemp told reporters Thursday.

  • In November, Kemp testified before the Fulton County grand jury that voted to indict Trump.

  • Calls to defund Willis have divided Georgia Republicans, Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV reported.

Why it matters: The highest-ranking Republican officeholder in Georgia, Kemp has been steadfast in his criticism of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state. His testimony will likely be a part of Willis’s case when it goes to trial.

New York financial fraud civil trial

N.Y. prosecutors accuse Trump of inflating assets

Key players: New York Attorney General Letitia James, Judge Arthur Engoron

  • In a legal filing Wednesday, New York prosecutors asked Judge Engoron, who is presiding over Trump’s financial fraud civil trial, to rule that Trump, his adult sons and family business inflated his net worth by billions in financial statements over a decade, CNN reported.

  • “Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the court to determine that defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values in the (statements of financial condition) and then used those SFCs repeatedly in business transactions to defraud banks and insurers,” the filing reads.

  • Engoron is not expected to issue a ruling on the filing until shortly before trial begins in October.

  • James is suing Trump for $250 million. A guilty verdict would also result in sanctions that would effectively halt the Trump Organization’s operations in the state.

Why it matters: If Engoron agrees with prosecutors that a “mountain of evidence” shows Trump inflated his net worth, it would not end the case but make it easier for James and her team to prove the remainder of her allegations.

Trump lawyers file motion to dismiss case

Key players: Trump lawyers Christopher Kise, Michael Madaio and Clifford Robert

  • Trump’s lawyers countered with their own filing Wednesday, asking Engoron to dismiss the case based on an appellate court ruling that appeared to limit the statute of limitations on trying charges such as the ones involved in the Trump case, CBS News reported.

  • “The appellate division has now limited the reach of the N.Y. A.G.’s crusade against President Trump and his family,” Trump lawyers Kise, Madaio and Robert wrote in the filing.

Why it matters: If Engoron sides with Trump’s lawyers, the scope of the case against the former president will be significantly whittled down.

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