Trump Rails Against $355 Million New York Ruling at Michigan Rally
Trump Rails Against $355 Million New York Ruling at Michigan Rally

By Janice Hisle

A day after a New York judge issued a ruling fining former President Donald Trump and his businesses $355 million, the former president began a Michigan rally by calling the decision “a lawless, unconstitutional atrocity that sets fire to our laws.”

Speaking to a crowd that overflowed an airport hangar in Waterford Township, northwest of Detroit, on Feb. 17, President Trump declared, “When we win back the White House, we will have no higher priority than ending the weaponization of this horrible legal system that has developed around us.”

The Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination has accused Democrats of “election interference” in the form of multiple civil and criminal cases against him.

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Regardless, President Trump has won by historic proportions in all four Republican presidential preference contests thus far: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

He and his sole remaining GOP rival, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, will face off against each other in South Carolina, where she served as governor, on Feb. 24. Three days later, Michigan will hold its Republican primary.

President Trump said he expects “a monumental victory” in the Wolverine State, he told the crowd. That would send a message to Democrat President Joe Biden and his allies ahead of the Nov. 5 general election, President Trump said, adding: “We have to let ’em know that a freight train is coming in November.”

During his 80-minute speech, President Trump asserted that President Biden’s policies are hurting Michigan’s automobile manufacturing industry and threatening good-paying union jobs.

But first, the former president spent several minutes telling the audience why he considers the New York case “a complete and total sham.”

A Case Unlike Any Other

On Feb. 16, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled that President Trump and the Trump Organization were liable for inflating the value of their assets to receive better rates from lenders and insurers.

“Judge Engoron just fined me $355 million for doing everything right,” he told the Michigan crowd. “And these repulsive abuses of power are not just an attack on me; they’re really an attack on you and all Americans.”

The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, brought the civil fraud case even though, according to President Trump, “there were no victims, no defaults, no damages, no complaints.”

“This was a case of satisfied banks and insurance companies, which made a lot of money dealing with me,” President Trump said. “They were very happy and they testified that way.”

Ms. James hailed Justice Engoron’s decision as “a tremendous victory for this state, this nation, and for everyone who believes that we all must play by the same rules—even former presidents.”

She said that President Trump is “finally facing accountability for his lying, cheating, and staggering fraud.”

But President Trump says he has done nothing wrong—and that Ms. James and others are singling him out unfairly because they are his political enemies.

Ms. James advanced the civil case against him “under a consumer fraud statute that has never ever been used before for this purpose,” President Trump said. One news outlet that had been “unfriendly” to him even acknowledged that its extensive research found no such case “ever brought like this in the history of New York State.”

The court denied President Trump the right to a trial by jury “because under the statute, they have the right to do whatever they want to do,” he said.

Noting that an appeal of Justice Engoron’s ruling is planned, President Trump said, “Hopefully, the whole thing is going to be thrown out and reversed.”

He predicted that the case will have far-reaching implications.

“As a result of this decision, businesses are going to flee New York State … taking with them tens of thousands of jobs because they can’t subject themselves to this,” President Trump said.

“If this persecution of political opponents continues, no one will want to do business in the United States of America any longer.”

Lost Money Serving as President

President Trump said the judgment against him is ironic because the presidency cost him money and because other politicians find ways to make money while they hold public office.

Republicans in Congress are tracing millions of dollars that flowed into the bank accounts of President Biden’s relatives.

“Crooked Joe is not working for you. He’s working for himself,” President Trump said. “As President Harry Truman said, ‘Show me a man that gets rich being a politician and I will show you a crook.’”

President Trump, who donated at least $1 million to government agencies while president, saw his net worth drop substantially during his term. In 2017, it was $3.5 billion. By the time he left office, it had dipped by one-third, to $2.4 billion, according to figures from Forbes and Newsweek magazines.

President Trump said he knew it would cost him to campaign for office and to serve as president. Yet he said it was the best thing he ever did because his presidency made America great.

He also said that despite that the Biden administration has “blown it,” he’ll make the country “greater than ever before” if reelected.

President Joe Biden addresses striking members of the United Auto Workers union at a picket line outside a General Motors service parts operations plant in Belleville, Mich., on Sept. 16, 2023. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The Battle for Unions’ Support

At one point, President Trump invited a man wearing an “Auto Workers for Trump” T-shirt to join him onstage.

“Thank you, President Trump. We got your back,” the man said into the microphone. “The auto workers are gonna support this guy, like we did in ’16, ’20; we’re gonna do it again in ’24! Eighty-five million of us are gonna vote for this guy. They can’t cheat enough to beat him!”

President Trump said the policies of the Biden administration are hurting Michigan’s auto workers and other citizens.

The Biden administration is mandating electric vehicles, President Trump said, calling it a “hit job on Michigan manufacturing jobs.”

President Trump and President Biden have both been wooing union leaders. President Biden recently received the endorsement of the United Auto Workers. Last month, President Trump met with the head of the Teamsters union.

But President Trump told his rally audience, which included many auto workers: “A vote for Biden is a vote to send tens of thousands of Michigan jobs to China and other places that we don’t want ’em to go. A vote for Trump is a vote to keep those manufacturing jobs in America, and add a lot of jobs.”

Illegal immigrants wait to be processed by U.S. border authorities after spending the night in the desert in Lukeville, Ariz., on Dec. 5, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)

He criticized President Biden’s refusal to continue building the U.S.–Mexico border wall. That decision, coupled with leniency for illegal immigrants, represents “the biggest threat” to the unions, President Trump said.

Illegal immigrants will displace union workers because they’re willing to work for much lower wages, he said.

President Trump also accused President Biden of implementing policies that are shifting businesses away from the United States.

President Trump estimated that 2.5 million illegal immigrants have received work permits during the Biden administration; he estimated that up to 18 million additional illegal immigrants will have entered the country illegally by the time President Biden’s term is up in 2025.

‘Migrant Crime’

“We have a new category of crime in our country; it’s called ‘migrant crime,’ and it’s taking over America,“ the former president said, later referring to it as ”Biden migrant crime.”

President Trump said that in Michigan’s Oakland County, where he was holding his rally, the sheriff had recently said that “organized criminal squads of illegal alien gang members are hiding in the trees” and breaking into people’s homes.

“If you don’t want to have illegal alien criminals crawling through your windows and going through your drawers … then vote against Crooked Joe Biden,” he said.

President Trump said he believes that more people are supporting him because they know he will combat such problems. They also remember being “better off” during his presidency, he said.

Michigan is considered a battleground state for the November general election; President Trump won the state in 2016 but lost it in 2020. Now he’s leading President Biden by about 5 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of opinion polls.

President Trump said he recognizes the importance of the Wolverine State, which carries 15 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency.

“If we win Michigan, we win the election,” he said.

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