By Jack Queen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his attacks on New York’s attorney general as she pursues a civil trial that could lead to the dismantling of the former U.S. president’s business empire and curtail his ability to do business in New York.
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election, is accused along with his two adult sons and others of inflating his wealth by more than $2 billion to secure favorable bank loans and insurance terms.
Speaking outside a Manhattan courtroom before the second day of the trial, Trump called Attorney General Letitia James “grossly incompetent” and said she concocted a bogus case against him.
“Her numbers are fraudulent,” Trump said. “She’s a fraud.”
James entered the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric from running businesses in New York, and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.
The trial judge, Arthur Engoron, has already ruled that Trump committed fraud, and canceled business certificates for companies that control crown jewels of Trump’s portfolio, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in downtown Manhattan.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they will appeal.
During the first day of trial, Trump displayed his trademark glower as Kevin Wallace, an attorney in James’ office, accused him of “lying year after year” in financial statements he provided to banks and insurers from 2011 to 2021.
Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise countered by saying Trump’s valuations were actually too low, and were based on business acumen that allowed him to build “one of the most successful real estate empires in the world.”
The trial could last until late this year.
After it ends, Trump still faces four criminal indictments over his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents, and hush money payments to a porn star.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in all of the cases. He also faces a January civil damages trial for defaming a writer who accused him of rape, which he denies.
So far, the government cases have strengthened him politically, and his campaign is using it to raise money by making him appear to be a martyr for Democrats using sham court cases to prevent him from retaking the White House.
(Reporting by Jack Queen in New York; additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Amy Stevens, Cynthia Osterman, Nick Zieminski and Will Dunham)