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Last Week Was Bad for Trump. This Week Could Be Four, Five Times Worse.

The former president’s trials are starting to take a toll—and Judge Engoron could be poised to deal another savage blow possibly by Wednesday.

Ian Maule/Getty Images

Think $83.3 million is a lot of money? Well, hold onto your hat, buster, because this week, New York Judge Arthur Engoron is supposed to announce the penalty he’s slapping on Donald J. Trump in the Trump Organization fraud case.

The case, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2022, accuses Trump of lying to bankers and insurers about the value of his properties. Last September, Engoron declared in a summary judgment that the evidence clearly said Trump had done so. He wrote in his ruling: “In defendants’ world: Rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies. That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”

Last month, Engoron said he was aiming to announce the fine amount by January 31. That’s Wednesday. James is seeking $370 million.

Last week’s damage award in the E. Jean Carroll case was staggering. We had a little office pool going (well, just three of us, and we didn’t actually bet money). I came in highest at $40 million, so under traditional Price Is Right rules, I was the closest, but nevertheless light-years off. That rigged, deep-state jury took all of three hours to award Carroll more than three times what lawyer Roberta Kaplan was asking.

Is there a precedent there for a larger reward than was even being sought? Signs are promising. Engoron, you’ll recall, showed little patience for Trump’s courtroom antics. Earlier this month, he nixed Trump’s attempt to make a closing argument. “Not having heard from you by the third extended deadline (noon today), I assume that Mr. Trump will not agree to the reasonable, lawful limits I have imposed as a precondition to giving a closing statement above and beyond those given by his attorneys, and that, therefore, he will not be speaking in court tomorrow,” the judge wrote. Trump nevertheless managed to blurt out a few sentences of petulant nonsense. “Please control your client,” Engoron advised his counsel.

Bad? Yep. But the knife took another twist into Trump’s flesh last Friday, the same day the Carroll jury threw all that buckshot in Trump’s face. Barbara Jones was appointed last fall by Engoron to monitor some of the Trump Organization’s transactions. On Friday, Jones wrote Engoron a 12-page letter saying, in part: “I have identified certain deficiencies in the financial information that I have reviewed, including disclosures that are either incomplete, present results inconsistently, and/or contain errors.” So—what’s your bet? Maybe $400 million? What about $500? Who knows?

The money isn’t even the main factor in play, especially considering that Trump probably doesn’t have it and wouldn’t pay it even if he did. No—the nuclear bomb here, the real psychological waterboarding of Donald John Trump, will come if Engoron strips him and his company of the ability to do business in New York state. This option is on the table because Trump was prosecuted under a 1956 law that allows courts the ability to issue a “permanent and plenary ban” on a company if the behavior is egregious enough to warrant it.

Sounds heavy, right? No question it would be a crushing blow to Trump’s ego. But guess what? Trump is such an accomplished con man that this isn’t even the first time the law has been used to prosecute him. Trump University set that precedent. One of Trump’s lawyers whined last week that the law was overbroad and unfair: “This is not just about President Trump. Every major bank CEO and every Wall Street participant should speak out now before the Attorney General’s shocking and tyrannical interference in the capital markets places all New York business transactions at risk.”

Quick … does that statement remind you of anything? It should. To me it sounds an awful lot like Trump’s own blubbering about presidential immunity—that all presidents need blanket immunity because someone is bound to sue them after they leave office over something they did.

Well—no: Somehow or another, we’ve had 46 presidents, and only one of them has faced this kind of legal scrutiny after he left office. That’s because only one president, so far as we know, spent his entire adult life in and out of office flagrantly ignoring the law (one other kind of did, but he resigned and retreated to a mostly quiet life of writing books, and society decided to leave him more or less alone).

So no, presidents don’t need blanket immunity. Trump keeps inventing examples—maybe an ex-president will be sued for having bombed some country. I guess any jerk can file any kind of nuisance lawsuit, but all Congress has to do is pass a law (if indeed one is not already on the books) protecting ex-presidents from legal action arising from policymaking decisions. Ex-presidents—and major bank CEOs and Wall Street “participants”—who obey the law don’t need blanket immunity!

And speaking of immunity: Where’s the ruling on that? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments on January 9, and a lot of people are wondering what’s taking so long. This was the hearing where one of the judges, Florence Pan, noted that under Trump’s theory, a president could order Seal Team 6 to kill a political opponent and face no consequences. It’s widely expected that the court will rule against Trump, and he will appeal.

What a way to start a year! Maybe about a half-a-billion dollars in fines, and a court ruling that is expected to torch his ridiculous immunity theory and allow other prosecutions to proceed. Speaking of which, Jack Smith is looming right around the corner. All while Trump is going to be crowned the Republican nominee. You have to believe that at least some normie Americans are going to see that something’s wrong with this picture.