Donald Trump, who remains uncooperative, launched an aggressive attack on the attorney general and judge presiding over his civil fraud case in New York on Monday. The state prosecutor accused the ex-president of deceiving others about his real estate business and profiting over $100 million.
The Attorney General, Letitia James, is requesting a minimum of $250 million in penalties. She also wants to permanently prohibit Mr. Trump and his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, from operating businesses in New York and impose a five-year ban on commercial real estate for Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization.
The witness testimony began in a courtroom in Manhattan after the initial statements were given. The first witness for the state was Donald Bender, a partner at Mazars USA and a longtime accountant for Mr. Trump’s companies.
Before the trial began, Mr. Trump stated to reporters that he believed the case was a fraudulent and deceitful attempt at political retribution by Ms. James. During a break for lunch, he referred to the Democrat as a corrupt and despicable individual, accusing her of forcing people to leave New York.
He was equally unsparing of the judge, Arthur Engoron, calling him a partisan Democrat who is using the case to interfere with the 2024 presidential election, where Mr. Trump holds a big lead for the Republican nomination.
“I believe this judge should be removed from their position,” stated Mr. Trump to the press. “They are not fit to serve as a judge.”
The beginning of Mr. Trump’s trial was utilized by his election campaign as an opportunity to raise funds. They claimed that he was protecting his family and reputation from the “corrupt tyrants” of New York Democrats.
The attorney general has accused Mr. Trump of exaggerating his assets and personal net worth from 2011 to 2021 in order to secure more favorable bank loans and reduce insurance premiums.
‘MONA LISA PROPERTIES’
Ms. James has alleged that Mr. Trump has significantly inflated the value of his assets, such as his penthouse apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and several office buildings and golf courses. This may have resulted in an overstatement of his personal wealth by up to $2.2 billion.
“This is not a typical business arrangement, and this is not how respectable parties engage with one another,” stated Kevin Wallace, an attorney representing Ms. James. “These crimes have real victims and cannot be ignored.”
In his opening statement, Christopher Kise, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, argued that Mr. Trump’s financial records were completely lawful.
“He has earned a significant amount of money by accurately predicting successful real estate investments,” stated Mr. Kise. “There was no intention to deceive, no illegal actions taken, no failure to fulfill obligations, no violation of terms, no trust placed in the banks, no unfair gains, and no individuals harmed.”
Another attorney, Alina Habba, informed Mr. Engoron that Mr. Trump’s assets were like “Mona Lisa properties” and would likely bring in high prices if he were to sell them.
In court, Mr. Trump donned a navy blue suit, a vibrant blue tie, and an American flag lapel pin.
Upon his entrance, he declared the case to be “a continuation of the most significant witch hunt in history.”
Ms. James stated that her office was prepared to substantiate their argument.
She stated that the law holds immense strength but is also delicate. Regardless of one’s wealth, no one is exempt from the law.
Mr. Engoron is presiding over a non-jury trial.
The previous week, the judge determined that Mr. Trump, his adult sons, and 10 of his companies were responsible for fraud. The judge used harsh language to describe how the defendants fabricated valuations.
According to him, the calculations involved in this were overvaluing the Trump Tower apartment by treating it as three times its real size and placing a value of $327 million on it. Additionally, he also claimed that the estimated worth of Mar-a-Lago was as high as $739 million, despite its assessed value being only $28 million.
The judge revoked the business licenses of companies that have control over key components of Mr. Trump’s business, and declared that he will assign receivers to manage their dissolution.
At the time, Mr. Trump reacted by referring to Mr. Engoron as “deranged.”
The court case will examine six extra allegations, such as manipulating business documents, committing insurance fraud, and participating in a conspiracy. It will also determine the amount of penalties the accused individuals should be charged with.
Prior to presenting his arguments, Mr. Engoron identified himself as having a broad understanding of the law. “One area I am well-versed in is the concept of fraud,” he stated.
During his presentation, Mr. Wallace shared a portion of a statement given by Michael Cohen, who previously served as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and confidant but has now become an adversary, in which Cohen stated their objective was to achieve the specific number desired by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kise argued that differing opinions on valuations do not automatically make one valuation deceitful.
He stated that they are not meant to be definite.
During his statement, Mr. Bender stated that he used information from both Mr. Trump and his companies in order to create Trump’s individual financial records.
According to Mr. Bender, the initial figures were provided by the Trump Organization and any alterations at the end would have also been authorized by the Trump Organization.
The court case is planned to last until the beginning of December.