September 22, 2022

David Cay Johnston, the renowned expert on Trump's financial crimes, threw cold water on the many excuses MAGA fans are fantasizing will allow Trump to escape accountability from the New York charges announced yesterday. Johnston appeared on The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle Wednesday night.

EXCUSE ONE: This is nothing but a witch hunt from a Democrat party headline seeker.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: He took the Fifth Amendment when questioned by the Attorney General's staff more than 400 times. Eric Trump? Something around the order of 500 times. In a criminal matter, you have a right to do that, but you can question it in a civil matter, the judge may, he doesn't have to, but may draw an adverse interest. The reason you would answer the questions is that they were damning to your case. That is going to be also a very major problem for him. Not being able to do business with banks to do any business in New York, well, that would introduce him to some small bank in Iowa.

EXCUSE TWO: Trump will just move his businesses to Florida, case closed.

STEPHANIE RUHLE: Can he just get cute? Here put the business under his other children's names? Move it to the State of Florida? Can he do anything like that?

JOHNSTON: Any move to do that, you are going to see Letitia James in court instantly, hollering "fraudulent transfer." And so no, he can't do that.

EXCUSE THREE: How dare that nasty woman go after Donald Trump's children?!?

JOHNSTON: [Donald Trump is] a man who has exposed his children. Whatever you might think of Michael Flynn, the general that Obama warned Trump not to hire, when federal charges came out of there was a charge between Flynn and his son, Flynn stood up for his son. I don't expect Donald Trump to stand up for his own children if push comes to shove.

RUHLE: Let's talk about those children. Because Bill Barr talked about that earlier today, I want you to watch this.

[CLIP] WILLIAM BARR: I'm not even sure she has a good case against Trump himself. But what ultimately persuades me that this is a political hit job is that she grossly overreaches when she tries to drag the children into this. Yes, they had roles in the business, but these are Donald Trump's personal financial statements... [END CLIP]

RUHLE: We're not talking about Barron, who's 16. Ivanka is a key executive in the company. Negotiated the hotel in Washington. Don Junior and Eric, they ran the company when he was in office. What is Bill Barr talking about?

JOHNSTON: Well, Barr is really trying to get Letitia James, who ran for office saying essentially, 'I'm going to get Donald Trump civilly. I'm going to get him.' That is really an imprudent thing to do. And you can bet that as they move towards trial, the Trump side will scream this is unfair. But I do not think it will get them, in particular, anywhere. But Trump has said in the past, suggested, that his son Don Jr., who is in his 40s, he's just a boy basically. Nonsense. We're not even talking about someone who is what I call my children, probationary adults, from 18 to 30. They are way past that. They are so deeply involved in the matters that are going on here.

EXCUSE FOUR: It's the banks/insurance companies/IRS's fault for not checking Trump's documents before they made the deals with him.

JOHNSTON: If you or I were to lie to banks the way that Donald Trump did, and the government became aware of it, we would be in deep trouble.

RUHLE: Hold on a second, though. Let's say he did lie to the banks. He is saying it's the bank's fault. It's rare that I say this, but does Trump have a point? But just stay with me. Almost no bank in New York would do business with him because they knew he was a liar. But Deutschebank did. When he tried to do business with Deutschebank on the business side, I knew this, I worked there, and he said, 'this is what the value of my brand is,' they laughed him out of the building. But instead of walking out of the building, he just walked back in the side door and went to the private bank. And the private bank said, come on in. And they did business with him. So is there some accountability for some of those who did business will form when everybody else on the street knew he was a big fat liar?

JOHNSTON: That's the point I wanted to get to. The banks are not innocent here. The insurance companies aren't innocent. There's a great deal of lawlessness going on among our big banks, especially international banks. We have a long history of banks like Citibank helping the then president of Mexico loot the public treasury and hide money. There is an enormous amount of litigation that's going on about money laundering helping criminals move money, and we need to rethink, first of all, the standards of white-collar crime in America, which we do little to enforce. You go rob a bodega with a water pistol, and we will put you in prison, but if you rob a bank and do it the way Donald Trump does it, nothing happens to you. Trump is going to argue, all of these loans were repaid. It doesn't matter. If you reach into the company of the banks, the vaults, and take money, and you put it back later, because you won the horse you put it on, at one of the racetracks, you still committed a crime. So Donald has real serious problems here, but we do need to look at the failure of our system to enforce the law against big banks and insurance companies, and this is a significant factor in something I've been writing about for 25 years, which is our worsening inequality. It's really a form of subsidy for the super-rich, and it is paid for by the rest of us in less access to credit and less beneficial credit terms.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.