Donald Trump: Verdict in fraud trial could cost him his real estate empire

This case is perhaps the most expensive for Donald Trump: The New York fraud trial is about the future of his corporate empire. The verdict is due to come down this week – and who is the defendant? Seems very nervous. Answers to the most important questions.

It is a judge’s ruling that Trump fears more than almost any other. A verdict is expected on January 31st that could shake up Donald Trump’s sprawling real estate company. His nervousness can be seen in his social media posts, which, as always in his case, are a good seismograph for his mood. “It is a great company that has been vilified and maligned by this politically motivated witch hunt. This is very unfair and I am calling on the highest courts in New York State or the federal system to intervene. THIS IS NOT AMERICA,” he ranted on Weekend.

At the same time he tried to please Judge Arthur Engoron. Hopefully the judge will show “that the New York justice system is ALIVE, RESPECTED AND GOOD. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!,” he wrote on Truth Social.

When Donald Trump swears in capital letters and shortly afterwards pleads again in capital letters, then these are pretty clear indications of his state of mind: he feels pushed into a corner. There are enough reasons for this these days. Last Saturday’s sensational verdict, which ordered him to pay $83.3 million in compensation in the civil trial of author E. Jean Carroll, appears to be just a prelude to what could come in the way of fines in the fraud trial this week – an overview.

What is this process about?

The public prosecutor’s office accuses Donald Trump and his children Donald Junior, Eric and Ivanka of tax fraud. There are essentially six allegations, including falsification of business documents and insurance fraud. Trump and his children are said to have increased and sometimes reduced their company finances as needed. In order to pay less taxes or get loans more easily – including from Deutsche Bank, for example. New York State Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump and his family in 2022. Alluding to Trump’s book title “The Art of The Deal,” she said at the time: “Anyone who says they have money that they don’t have has not mastered the art of negotiating, but rather the art of stealing.”

What is at stake for Donald Trump?

Much. A defeat would be a major blow to his real estate empire, which Trump turned into a major, infamous American brand long before he ran for the White House. This empire represents a large part of his personal fortune and, perhaps more importantly, his self-image.

According to Forbes Magazine, his New York real estate alone accounts for $720 million of his estimated $2.5 billion fortune. Trump repeatedly boasted about his successes in the New York real estate market, calling them his “greatest business achievement.” But the defeat would not only hurt symbolically.

If the judge follows the prosecution – and it looks like he will – it is certain that Trump and his group of companies will have to pay a high fine. In its last written submission, the public prosecutor’s office requested a hefty penalty of $370 million. She also called for Trump’s companies to be banned from doing business in New York – which would also mean he would lose control of his iconic Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Would a conviction hurt Trump as a presidential candidate?

Old certainties no longer seem to apply to Donald Trump. The numerous lawsuits against him did not harm him – on the contrary, they contributed to a high level of mobilization among his base. Trump has also already announced that he will appeal the verdict. And because Trump and his lawyers have become masters of delaying proceedings, a final verdict is unlikely to come before the presidential election in November. But there are already signs that Trump is likely to lose many undecided voters if a court finds his fraud, and many hesitant voters are likely to question his portrayal of a successful businessman and dealmaker. A production from which Donald Trump created his entire political persona. And which now threatens to slip away from him.