Trump’s Business Empire Was One Big Long-Running Fraud

INSIDE: Willis ... Menendez ... Tuberville
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 31: Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on May 31, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

When The Empire Has No Clothes

In a devastating setback to Donald Trump’s business “empire,” a state judge in New York has ruled that Trump, his two adult sons, and many of his companies engaged in persistent, long-term fraudulent business practices and set in motion the unwinding and dissolution of some of Trump’s core business interests.

While the ruling in the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James was a huge win for her and a colossal reversal for Trump, it is not the end of the story. It may only be a midpoint. There remain other unresolved issues in the case, which is set for trial next week, and it could linger on appeal for years. I would caution against expecting to see a fire sale of Trump properties any time soon.

Still, the judge agreed with the attorney general that Trump spent years wildly inflating the value of his properties, and he did so in a tone that was dismissive, sarcastic, and derisive. He called Trump’s various legal arguments “pure sophistry,” “erroneous,” “rehashed,” “untenable,” “patently false,” “fatally flawed,” “simply untrue,” “completely irrelevant,” “egregious,” “indefensible,” and “borderline frivolous.”

The most telling passage from the ruling:

The judge sanctioned four of Trump’s attorneys, including Christopher Kise, $7,500 apiece for “engaging in repetitive, frivolous motion practice.” Kise called the ruling “outrageous.”

Perhaps most significantly though, the judge ordered the cancellation of business certificates for some Trump entities, which would render them unable to do business in the state, and will name an independent receiver to manage the dissolution of the Trump entities.

More On Trump’s Big Fraud

If you detect a hint of caution in my approach to the ruling, it’s because it’s not immediately clear how this will play out or what the immediate ramifications are. A sampling of some of the coverage:

  • WSJ: “The cancellation of the business certificates also was a centerpiece request in the attorney general’s case, a remedy that could cripple the Trump Organization’s ability to operate in New York.”
  • WaPo: “The decision orders the parties to suggest candidates for receivers who will oversee the dissolution of the various entities that make up the Trump Organization’s corporate structure — a ruling that appears to mean the collapse of its operations in New York.”
  • NYT: “The order will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s company itself, which is a collection of hundreds of entities, but the decision could nonetheless have a sweeping impact on the company’s New York operations. If Justice Engoron’s decision is not reversed by an appeals court, it could shut down an entity that employs hundreds of people working for him in New York, effectively crushing the company.”
  • AP: “Engoron’s ruling, days before the start of a non-jury trial in James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse.”
  • NYT: “By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.”

Fani Willis Faces Threats

While prosecuting several high profile cases, including Trump’s RICO case, Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis says she and her family have received threats and been doxxed:

Willis said she, her daughters, her father and even her ex-husband had have their private information posted online. Some of those posts included racial slurs while others suggested violence.


TPM’s Kate Riga was the first to report that this week’s craven ruling from the Fifth Circuit in the Biden social media case was actually a “clerical error,” leading to a unusual withdrawal of its order and a flurry of new orders trying to clean up the mess, all of which bounced up to the attention of the Supreme Court because it is currently considering a stay in the case.

Disaster Averted In Alabama Case

Voting rights advocates and court watchers were on pins and needles to see if the Supreme Court would let Alabama get away with ignoring the court’s ruling against it earlier this year and trying to ram through a redistricting map that discriminates against Black voters. The court held firm.

The National Security Angle To The Menendez Case

CERNOBBIO, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 01: Robert “Bob” Menendez Senator for the state of New Jersey and his wife Nadine Mendez attend the 49th Edition Of ‘Cernobbio Forum’ Hosted By The European House-Ambrosetti on September 01, 2023 in Cernobbio, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

I love a good old-fashioned public corruption case, but the latest prosecution of Bob Menendez just doesn’t quite fit into that bucket. It’s a foreign influence and counterintelligence case at heart, which is an important contributing factor in Democratic senators abandoning him en masse:

  • TPM’s Josh Kovensky: How Egypt Allegedly Courted And Won Over Bob Menendez
  • The FBI is running a parallel counterintelligence investigation into the Menendez matter, NBC News reported. A reminder that counterintel investigations, even effective ones, are often defensive in nature and don’t necessarily yield criminal charges.

GOP Shutdown Watch

The Senate on a bipartisan basis is preparing to put the squeeze on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy by passing a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open, but there’s no real indication it will work. All signs point to a government shutdown this weekend, and one that could potentially last quite a while.

Trump Is Not The GOP’s Only Problem

2024 Ephemera

  • The second GOP presidential debate – sans Trump – is tonight on the hallowed ground of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
  • This may be the last debate for some of the GOP also-rans in primary race unlike almost any other given Trump’s dominating position and the party’s lurch toward radicalism.
  • Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) is set to announce his candidacy for the Senate seat Mitt Romney is vacating.


AP: Qatar Airways executive says invasive gynecological examinations of passengers won’t be repeated

Tour De Trump*

*Not to be confused with the actual Tour de Trump in the late ’80s, capitalizing on Greg LeMond’s success in the Tour de France.

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