On Friday, a judge in New York delivered a significant blow to Donald J. Trump in his civil fraud lawsuit, ruling that the former president was guilty of conspiring to inflate his net worth. The judge ordered Trump to pay a fine of nearly $355 million, with added interest that could deplete his entire cash reserves. Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s decision concludes a tumultuous and prolonged lawsuit initiated by the New York Attorney General, who challenged Trump’s exaggerated wealth claims. With Justice Engoron as the sole decider, he issued a comprehensive punishment that puts Trump’s business ventures at risk while he faces four criminal charges and attempts a presidential comeback.


Justice Engoron imposed a three-year prohibition on Trump from holding executive positions in any New York-based company, affecting parts of his Trump Organization. This ruling extends to Trump’s adult sons, including Eric Trump, the acting CEO, each fined over $4 million, casting uncertainty on the family’s ability to manage their business shortly.


Moreover, with additional interest, the total penalty Trump faces amounts to $450 million, as stated by Attorney General Letitia James. Trump risks asset seizure and the loss of his New York buildings if he fails to pay the $355 million fine, James cautioned, expressing determination to enforce the judgment through court-ordered asset confiscation.


During a Fox News town hall in South Carolina, Trump likened the verdict to the persecution of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, describing it as a form of extreme political repression. He also discussed his potential vice-presidential picks for his bid for the Republican nomination and committed to debating Joe Biden, despite facing tough questions on issues like illegal immigration and handling classified documents.


Mr. Trump plans to challenge the financial penalty through an appeal but is required to either pay the fine or obtain a bond within a 30-day timeframe. Despite the hefty fine, bankruptcy is unlikely for Mr. Trump as his primary assets are in real estate, valued significantly higher than the imposed penalty.


Furthermore, Mr. Trump intends to seek a temporary suspension of the operating restrictions placed on him and his sons during the appeal process. In a press briefing held at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday evening, he criticized both Attorney General Letitia James and Justice Arthur F. Engoron, labeling them as “corrupt.”


Although the lenders profited from their dealings with Mr. Trump, they were identified as the victims in the lawsuit. Ms. James contended that Mr. Trump’s fraudulent actions deprived them of potential higher earnings.


The financial penalty is aimed at compensating for these unrealized profits, with approximately half of the $355 million — $168 million — attributed to the interest Mr. Trump avoided paying, and the balance stemming from his profits from the recent sale of two properties. This sum has been reclaimed from Mr. Trump and his business entities by the judge.


Before the trial commenced, Justice Engoron determined that Mr. Trump had manipulated his annual financial statements to deceive the lenders, supporting the attorney general’s primary argument. On Friday, the judge confirmed nearly all other allegations made by Ms. James against Mr. Trump, concluding that he had collaborated with senior executives to breach multiple state laws.


This ruling marks a significant triumph for Ms. James, a Democrat, fulfilling her campaign pledge to hold Mr. Trump accountable. She remained composed in the courtroom as the former president denounced her, labeling her a corrupt politician driven by personal gain.


The decision on Friday precedes a forthcoming trial in Manhattan where Mr. Trump will face criminal charges at the end of next month. Additionally, he is dealing with 57 other felony charges spread across three separate criminal cases.


However, it appears that the fraud lawsuit has particularly troubled Mr. Trump more than his other legal challenges. He voiced his frustration during the trial, asserting that the proceedings were unjust persecution against someone who has positively contributed to New York.


Mr. Trump’s defense team maintained that the fraud case lacked a traditional victim, challenging the attorney general to identify anyone who suffered harm as a result. Furthermore, on Friday, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization pointed out that the company has always fulfilled its loan obligations without fail and has never defaulted on any loan. The spokesperson highlighted that the lenders conducted thorough due diligence before proceeding with their financial agreements with the organization.