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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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A judge ruled that Trump defrauded the public for decades. Fox News figures falsely claim it's a victimless crime.

Fox News figures have repeatedly excused former President Donald Trump’s fraud charges as a “victimless crime” during coverage of the trial that will determine how much Trump owes the state of New York in fines and whether he can continue conducting business in the state. The attorney general pursued this case under a longstanding state statute that gives the government the authority to protect New Yorkers from fraud.

  • A New York Judge determined Donald Trump’s company committed fraud against the people of New York for decades

    • On September 26, a New York judge ruled that Trump had fraudulently inflated the value of his business assets in order to secure unduly favorable bank loans and interest rates. In a pre-trial ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron “found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.”  [CNN, 9/27/23; The Associated Press, 9/26/23]
    • Trump and his legal team have claimed that no crimes were committed, arguing that there were “no unjust profits, and there were no victims,” and that this is another “witch-hunt.” However, as Judge Engoron stated, the Trump Organization met the legal standard for financial fraud by “presenting the statements as true while knowing they were false” when valuing their assets. [The Guardian, 10/2/23]
    • The law cited in Judge Engoron’s ruling, Section 63 (12) of New York’s Executive Law, allows the attorney general to “police bad business behavior” and ensure fair market conditions. Enacted in the 1950s, the law has repeatedly been used to penalize business practices that mislead consumers, investors, or regulators, regardless of whether or not financial losses have been incurred. [NPR, 9/29/23; The New Yorker, 9/29/23]
    • New York Attorney General Letitia James explained in her case that the victims of the Trump Organization’s fraud were the people of New York. Her lawsuit against the Trump Organization alleges that the money “borrowed by false pretenses was then unavailable to the state's other, law-abiding businesses and residents.” [Business Insider, 9/23/22]
  • Fox News hosts and contributors are ignoring New York’s authority to hold Trump accountable and excusing the former president’s fraud

    • Fox News host Jesse Watters scoffed that Trump’s New York trial will have “no jury and no victims.” He added, “I thought Democrats looked the other way when you defrauded the government. Didn’t Hunter [Biden] deduct escorts from his taxes?” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 10/3/23]
    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley claimed that this is a case with “no real victims, in the sense of banks saying they lost any money.” He also insinuated that the charges were politically motivated, stating, “You’ve got an attorney general who ran on the pledge to bag him on anything. She didn't even have a specific crime. She just promised that she would get him.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/3/23]
    • Outnumbered co-host Kayleigh McEnany parroted Trump’s defense, stating, “Yeah, that's the point. This was a victimless crime as you heard the former president say today.” McEnany then quoted Fox’s so-called “Brain Room,” “‘I am not finding any examples of asset conviction for allegedly inflating the value of real estate assets without a victim’” before speculating that Trump was being unfairly targeted. She said, “So the question becomes: But for having the last name Trump, would this have happened? I argue no.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 10/2/23]
    • On Outnumbered, Fox’s Emily Compagno dismissed the idea that the people of New York were victims of fraud, stating that taxes supposedly paid by Trump’s business have “clearly gone to the security and infrastructure of this state.” After listing the number of people employed by the Trump Organization, Compagno added, “We have a business here that makes the state millions in tax revenue and in employee taxes, and then you are telling us that the inflation of such has somehow detrimentally affected the state or the city. How can you articulate this? What are the damages?” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 10/3/23]
    • Fox anchor Martha MacCallum insinuated that overvaluation is a common practice in real estate before asking, “Who is hurt? Who is the victim in this case?” Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general, ignored the victim presented by Attorney General James by stating that “You never go after someone, first of all, if no one else is complaining and there's not a victim — an alleged victim.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 10/2/23]
    • Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy claimed on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum that Trump was being tried “on the basis of no proof of fraud, no proof of fraudulent intent, no proof of fraudulent impact.” Earlier, MacCallum had asked McCarthy to “explain, if you can” how the people of New York were an injured party, to which McCarthy responded, “There's not a single victim here.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 9/29/23]