Trials & Litigation

Judge orders Trump to pay more than $350 million in N.Y. civil fraud trial

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Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a watch party on Jan. 23, 2024, at the Sheraton Nashua in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron on Friday ordered former President Donald Trump to pay more than $350 million in penalties, handing down a hefty penalty following a monthslong civil trial in which Trump and others were accused of financial fraud by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Engoron also said Trump could not serve as an officer or a director for any New York company for three years. Trump has denied all wrongdoing and assailed the case.

Engoron ruled before the trial that Trump and his company had broadly committed fraud. The trial was meant to allow Engoron to determine any penalties and whether any illegal acts occurred.

Engoron concluded Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was a “credible” witness in the case.

Cohen was an “important” witness, “although hardly the linchpin that defendants have attempted to portray him to be,” Engoron wrote. Cohen’s testimony was “significantly compromised by his having pleaded guilty to perjury and by some seeming contradictions in what he said at trial,” the judge continued, before explaining why he ultimately found Cohen’s account believable.

The credibility of the disgraced lawyer isn’t just a major factor in the civil case—he is also an important witness in Trump’s upcoming criminal trial in New York next month on charges he falsified business records to aid his campaign by covering up a sexual liaison with an adult-film actress.

Cohen “testified that although Donald Trump did not expressly direct him to reverse engineer financial statements, he ordered him to do so indirectly, in his ‘mob voice’,” Engoron wrote. “Although the animosity between the witness and the defendant is palpable, providing Cohen with an incentive to lie, the Court found his testimony credible, based on the relaxed manner in which he testified, the general plausibility of his statements, and, most importantly, the way his testimony was corroborated by other trial evidence.”

The judge conceded that others might disagree with his assessment of Cohen, who has become an outspoken anti-Trump advocate.

“A less-forgiving factfinder might have concluded differently, might not have believed a single word of a convicted perjurer. This factfinder does not believe that pleading guilty to perjury means that you can never tell the truth. Michael Cohen told the truth.”

Trump was not the only member of his family penalized Friday. Two of his adult children—Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who were also defendants in the case—were fined $4 million each. Both men were also blocked from serving as an officer or director for any New York corporation for two years.

Alina Habba, a legal spokeswoman for Donald Trump, criticized the ruling, calling it an “injustice” and “politically fueled witch hunt.” In a statement Habba also expressed confidence it will be overturned by the Appellate Division.

She also warned that if the decision against Trump is allowed to stand “it will serve as a signal” that “New York is no longer open for business.”

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