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Financial Woes for Donald Trump

Clarence Page Instantly Interpret Free: Legalese Decoder - AI Lawyer Translate Legal docs to plain English

Clarence Page, syndicated columnist

How embarrassing. Donald TrumpÔÇÖs well-known history of financial exaggeration appears to be catching up to him in a very inconvenient place, a courtroom.

After years of his colorful boasts about his wealth and financial savvy, TrumpÔÇÖs own lawyers delivered the news to the judge that he doesnÔÇÖt have the funds to pay the judgment from a recent civil ruling in New York.

If financial stories make your eyes glaze over as much as they often do mine, consider this simple political question: How much will the Republican presidential candidateÔÇÖs legal and financial woes matter to his voters

Last fall, New York Judge Arthur Engoron found Trump liable for fraud and ordered him to pay a penalty that now sits at $454 million. On Monday, his legal team said that mighty sum was so high that it would be a ÔÇ£practical impossibilityÔÇØ for the former president to pay.

In other words, Trump doesnÔÇÖt have enough money to pay what he owes. New York Attorney General Letitia James, about whom Trump has had no kind words, brought a civil fraud lawsuit against Trump in 2022, accusing him and others in the Trump Organization of a long-running scheme in which he and his company inflated their net worth and the value of their assets in order to obtain more favorable business loans.

This was a surprise. Not that Trump exaggerated his wealth, but that he was admitting he was less than superhuman.

Trump has a reputation for telling tall tales about things that donÔÇÖt even call for it. The Republican who would be president has been accused of exaggerating the number of floors in New YorkÔÇÖs Trump Tower, inflating his own height by an inch and ÔÇö responding to the suggestions on the Republican primary debate stage in 2016 that he has abnormally short fingers ÔÇö that he had other parts of his anatomy that were just fine.

That was Trump the entertainer, a persona that won him the hearts of many Americans, not just Republicans, for puncturing the usual stuffiness of such events.

As Trump said by way of explaining his sales success to a Forbes reporter in 2016, maybe people want to be fooled. ÔÇ£People are very happy,ÔÇØ Trump said. ÔÇ£They like to have apartments that have height, the psychology of it.ÔÇØ

I wondered about that back in 2016 when I first read reports of his exaggerating the height of and floor space in Trump Tower. That seemed harmless, though. Nothing close to the drama these days in a New York courtroom. Maybe people in some circumstances do like to be duped. That certainly explains some of the goofier choices IÔÇÖve seen voters make in some elections.

For now, Trump continues his legal fight in New York and characterizes the lawsuit as a political ÔÇ£witch huntÔÇØ by James. Compared with his four criminal indictments and more than 90 counts, it seems like business ÔÇö or Trumpian politics ÔÇö as usual.

But this time, the exposure of his financial shortcomings appears to bring extra pain to Trump, who hasnÔÇÖt been showing much comfort with this case anyway.

It does little good for his own pride and reputation to be revealed as a mortal who unsuccessfully approached 30 surety firms to issue bonds to satisfy the courtÔÇÖs demands for upfront payment while Trump appeals. WeÔÇÖve already seen that most U.S. banks wonÔÇÖt do business with Trump.

WeÔÇÖve also seen TrumpÔÇÖs presidential campaign struggle to raise money from well-heeled donors, in part apparently because those money folks donÔÇÖt want their donations used to pay TrumpÔÇÖs legal fees, according to The New York Times.

The question now is whether these blows to the myth of TrumpÔÇÖs financial prowess and wherewithal will hurt him on the campaign trail. If paying hush money to a porn star didnÔÇÖt do it, itÔÇÖs hard to see how this will.

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