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(American Thinker) — Like millions of Americans before me, I’ve done exactly what Donald Trump did; namely, sought a loan based upon my best estimate of what my property was worth – and I didn’t look to what the tax assessor said in reaching that value. However, as part of the Democrats’ lawfare, Letitia James twisted a perfectly ordinary act into something evil, and a partisan judge put his imprimatur on her efforts. If it’s allowed to stand, the results will be devastating, not just for the political class but also for normal Americans.

In December 2020, I had to put my home on the market and move 1,000 miles away. Two months before, I’d considered refinancing my mortgage, and the bank gave me a valuation of $285,000. I thought it probably should have been higher, but didn’t really feel like taking the time to investigate because I wasn’t really that worried about it.

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That changed in December when I was forced to worry about it. So, I reached out to a realtor friend (an actual realtor, not a guy with a side gig) and asked him to give me an estimate. He thought the house would probably sell for about $305,000, maybe $315,000 tops. Again, I was skeptical, so I started doing my own research. I looked at my community, what was available in my county, and what comparable houses were selling for. I also took note of the neighborhoods, roadways, schools, etc. After all of that, I estimated my house was worth about $400,000. I thought it could sell for $415,000 or even a bit more.

We put it on the market at $405,000 and, ten days later, it was sold with the buyers offering $395,000. We eventually settled for $400,000. I was confident it could have sold for more, but exigent circumstances made the logistics of waiting impossible, which is sad because, had I been able to wait 12 more months, it would likely have gone for $550,000, almost twice the bank’s original valuation.

All of this to say that, in the world of real estate, there are a million different factors that go into valuing something. Based on those criteria, there are likely countless different values that can be set on a particular property. What’s more, values can be volatile, particularly in the high-end markets.

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Real estate, like most businesses, can be unpredictable, sometimes very much so. This makes what NY AG Letitia James has done to Donald Trump especially unconscionable.

As CNN summarized James’s indictment:

Trump and his company used ‘false and misleading’ financial statements, her lawsuit alleged, ‘repeatedly and persistently to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, and to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.’

Reading that, one would imagine that some banks or insurance companies lost money because they loaned money to Trump or that Trump defaulted on them. That didn’t happen. Indeed, Trump paid back the loans with interest. There were literally no victims, and banks still wanted to lend to him!

But that didn’t matter. The bottom line is that, according to James, Trump used one set of books for getting a loan and another set of books for taxes. But of course, outside of a politicized prosecutor’s office, that’s normal, not actionable.

When I was selling my house, the county tax collector assessed my home at around $200,000. It had been that way for years. Indeed, it’s very common, particularly in red states where they concern themselves with controlling taxes, for the government assessment of the value of a property to be substantially below what it might sell for. That didn’t impact what I might refinance it for or what a buyer might pay for it. In those cases, the lender sends someone out to do an inspection and then comes to its own conclusion as to what value it would be willing to assign the property for a loan.

In Trump’s case, in 2011, the local property assessor in Palm Beach County had valued his Mar-a-Lago property at $18 million, which was raised to $27.6 million in 2021. James indicted Trump because he valued the property at higher valuations during this time, up to $739 million for collateral purposes. She claimed the difference between the tax assessment and his valuation proved he committed fraud to get otherwise unobtainable loans.

But here’s the thing: According to a banker involved in the transaction, the bank followed its own guidelines to make the loans:

‘I think we expect clients-provided information to be accurate. At the same time, it’s not an industry standard that these statements be audited. They’re largely reliant on the use of estimates,’ Williams said, so bankers routinely ‘make some adjustments.’

To highlight the disparity, this past December, a high-end Palm Beach real estate broker stated that, in 2021, Mar-a-Lago would have been worth slightly more than $1 billion and he likely would have valued it at $655 million in 2011.

The point here is that Trump was simply doing the same thing that millions of homeowners and businesses do every single day across the country. They make the best-case scenario for the value of their property or business while knowing that a bank or lender will make its determinations before deciding how much to lend.

That’s business. Valuations are just estimates, and they can be all over the map in business. In 2000, Spanish telephone company Terra bought the search engine Lycos for $12 billion. They unloaded it three years later for $95 million at a loss of 99 percent! Conversely, in 1999, Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin offered to sell the company to Alta Vista for $750,000. George Bell, the CEO, demurred. The company went public in 2004 with a valuation of $23 billion and, today, Google is worth almost $2 trillion.

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Again, the point is that valuations are guesses, educated or otherwise, and everyone has their own perspective. James, however, has taken this ordinary element of business and twisted it to try and eviscerate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Sadly, she might succeed. First, Judge Arthur Engoron came back with a guilty verdict. Then, last Friday, he fined Trump almost half a billion dollars. What’s worse is that, because of New York’s unforgiving rules on appeal, he may have to put up the entire amount before he can appeal.

America’s justice system has been twisted into a hammer with which to nail enemies of the swamp to the wall. Not only have we seen the laughable election manipulation case in Georgia, the ludicrous defamation case in New York, and the on-hold federal election interference case, but we now have the justice system taking normal, everyday activities in which millions of Americans regularly engage and turning them into crimes.

On top of that, the system is set up such that if someone is deemed liable, they essentially must bankrupt themselves in order to be able to seek an appeal. That’s the definition of unjust.

If this stands, America as we know it is finished. You can’t unring a bell, and precedent is precedent.

Should Trump lose because of this lawfare onslaught, it will never stop. It won’t just be billionaire ex-presidents who’ll be in the crosshairs. It will also be small businesses who don’t support local candidates, big businesses who threaten the elites, and, eventually, it just might be you and me for having written something critical of some thin-skinned politician somewhere or having overestimated the value of our house… None of that is good for a free republic.

Reprinted with permission from American Thinker.