On Monday, in a Manhattan court, former President Donald Trump encountered the attorney general who is suing him for large-scale business deceit and the judge who recently revoked his business licenses. This was the first day of a civil trial worth $250 million.
Trump arrived at the courtroom with a frown on his face to attend the trial’s opening statements. The New York Attorney General, Tish James, has accused Trump, his adult sons, his companies, and some of his business associates of artificially inflating Trump’s net worth in order to receive favorable treatment from banks and insurance companies.
In the middle of the day, while taking a break for lunch, Trump criticized Justice Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over the case in state court. Engoron will make the final decision in the trial as it is a bench trial without a jury.
“I believe this judge should lose their license to practice law. They should also be removed from their position. There are those who claim that this judge’s actions could result in criminal charges. By involving themselves in the election, they are bringing shame upon themselves,” stated Trump in the corridor near the courtroom, echoing his previous criticisms of Engoron on various social media platforms over the past few weeks.
The legal action revolves around a topic that is fundamental to Trump’s public image: his total assets.
Recently, Engoron issued a possibly harmful decision against Trump’s family enterprise. The ruling stated that Trump was responsible for extensive deceit by exaggerating his assets and cancelling the permits for his prominent properties, such as Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel.
The legal proceedings will examine the actions of Trump and his associates in regards to the dissemination of false information. This includes allegations from James that it was used to perpetrate insurance fraud and obtain tax advantages. Engoron’s decision indicates that the trial will also consider the repercussions that Trump will now face. James is seeking $250 million in damages and a prohibition on Trump operating businesses within the state.
On Monday, James herself was present at the trial and sat in the front row as a spectator. Trump, dressed in a navy suit and a bright blue tie, walked directly in front of James when entering the courtroom, but did not acknowledge or engage with her.
Eric Trump, the son of the previous president and a defendant in the case, was also present in court.
The opening statement made by the attorney general’s office on Monday informed the judge that they will present evidence demonstrating Trump’s practice of inflating his property values in order to increase the overall amount stated in his financial records.
According to Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office, it is acceptable to embellish stories for a Forbes magazine or television audience, but it is not allowed when conducting business in New York.
The main focus of the attorney general’s argument involves testimony from former attorney Michael Cohen, who worked for Trump. In the beginning of the trial, the attorney general’s team showed a clip from Cohen’s recorded deposition where he claimed Trump would choose a specific amount for his net worth in order to be ranked higher on Forbes’ list of wealthiest individuals. According to Cohen, it was the responsibility of both himself and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is also on trial, to evaluate the properties in a manner that would equal Trump’s desired total.
According to Cohen, Mr. Trump would summon both Allen and me to his office. Even though he was valued at $6 billion, he desired a higher ranking on the Forbes list. Thus, he would claim that his worth was actually $7 or $8 billion. To make this claim seem legitimate, Allen and I would manipulate the assets and inflate the values of each asset class in order to meet the desired $8 billion figure.
During their initial statements, attorneys representing Trump and the co-defendants focused on Cohen’s involvement, consistently labeling him as untruthful and a criminal who has been convicted.
According to Trump’s lawyer Chris Kise, he has been dishonest with courts, Congress, and anyone he has interacted with.
Another defense attorney, Alina Habba, told the judge — in somewhat exaggerated delivery — that Trump and the others had, in fact, undervalued their properties and were being sued for standard business practices.
Habba stated that we are targeting a current president, his two children, and his staff regarding a financial statement that holds less value than their actual worth.
She explained to the court that the value is determined by how much someone is willing to pay. She also compared Trump’s properties to the Mona Lisa, emphasizing their high value.
She referenced one of Trump’s properties and stated to the court: “I can guarantee you, there is someone who would purchase that property for more than one billion dollars. This is not deceitful, it is simply a real estate transaction.”
Prior to going into the courtroom on Monday, Trump stated to journalists, “Everything was flawless. There was no wrongdoing.” He also criticized James, labeling her as “racist” and “a terrible spectacle who campaigned on the promise of going after Trump even before knowing anything about me.”
In April, Trump was in a New York court for his arraignment on charges concerning hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. He is set to stand trial for this case next year and is facing indictments in three other criminal cases in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C.
A few demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse on Monday, with some of them chanting, “Trump constantly tells lies.”