Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
- Expert 'found absolutely no fraud,' Trump says
- Judge says he'll 'rigorously' enforce limited gag order
- Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
- Trump's disclaimer told bankers to 'beware,' expert says
- Trump distances himself from preparation of statements
- Trump's misrepresentations cost banks $168M, expert testifies
- Trump, after testifying, fined $10,000 for violating gag order
- Trump tax rep acknowledged much lower value for Mar-a-Lago
'Gotta lose some weight,' Trump says, examining sketch
Similar to his son Donald Trump Jr.'s chat with sketch artist Jane Rosenberg in court last month, Donald Trump chatted up the court sketch artists during two breaks in testimony.
Rosenberg said that when Trump surveyed her rendering of him, he offered a simple, "Nice."
Trump also examined a rendering by sketch artist Isabelle Brourman.
"Wow, amazing," Trump said, according to Brourman. "Gotta lose some weight."
During testimony, the former president has been sitting at the defense counsel table with few items other than an unopened, Trump-branded water bottle and a stack of sticky notes.
Defense expert tells AG lawyer, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself'
Donald Trump's accounting expert snapped at a lawyer for the New York attorney general after the lawyer suggested his opinion was bought by the defense team.
As accounting expert Eli Bartov was testifying about Trump's use of disclaimers in his financial statements, state attorney Kevin Wallace interjected, saying, "This is pure speculation from someone they hired to say whatever it is they want."
Still in the witness box, Bartov began yelling at Wallace about the comment as Trump sat watching a few feet away.
"You make up allegations that never existed," Bartov shouted. "I am here to tell the truth. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for talking like that."
Bartov, in his testimony, said that Trump's use of disclaimers functioned "just like the warning from the surgeon general on a box of cigarettes."
The accounting expert said that Trump's disclaimers clearly flagged to his lenders that they should conduct their own due diligence regarding the figures, rather than rely on them at face value. Witnesses from Deutsche Bank -- Trump's primary lender during the 2010s -- previously testified that they conducted due diligence and significantly undercut the valuations Trump provided in his financial statement when deciding to offer him loans.
"I never saw anything that is clearer than that," Bartov said about the language in Trump's disclaimer clause. "Even my nine-year-old granddaughter Emma would understand this language."
In his pretrial summary judgment ruling, Judge Engoron dismissed Trump's argument that disclaimer clauses protect him from allegations of fraud. While multiple defense witnesses have attempted to rebut Engoron's opinion about Trump's use of disclaimer clauses, the judge has signaled he stands by his opinion.
"My summary judgment is the law of the case on the legal effect of this paragraph or these sentences," Engoron said in response to Bartov's testimony, adding that the clauses "would not insulate the client."
Nevertheless, Trump attorney Chris Kise requested that Engoron reconsider his finding.
"I am fairly liberal in reconsidering my opinions," Engoron said before Bartov resumed his testimony.
Expert 'found absolutely no fraud,' Trump says
During a short break in testimony, Donald Trump applauded the findings of accounting expert Eli Bartov, who testified that he found no evidence of accounting fraud in Trump's statements of financial condition.
"He reviewed fully the documents that this horrendous attorney general has put forward, and he found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind," Trump told reporters.
Trump, however, acknowledged that Judge Engoron might not be swayed by Bartov's testimony.
"We will probably go forward and I'm sure nothing will have any bearing on what this judge does," Trump said.
Trump penthouse misstatement was not fraud, expert says
Donald Trump's overstatement of the value of his Trump Tower penthouse apartment was a mistake, according to accounting expert Eli Bartov -- but not fraud.
"The price was inflated. There is no question about it," Bartov said about Trump more than doubling the value of his triplex apartment on his statement of financial condition, from $80 million to $180 million, between 2011 and 2012.
Bartov chalked up the mistake to the inevitable errors that occur in the process of compiling a statement of financial condition. He said that if Trump meant to commit fraud by inflating the value of his apartment, he would have made some effort to conceal it.
"There is no evidence here of concealment," Bartov said. "It's true this is an error. But it is no fraud."
Bartov instead blamed Trump's external accounting firm for failing to catch the obvious error.
"They submitted to him the supporting documents. Any person that had one year experience in auditing ... will immediately see there is a jump from 80 million to 180 million," he said.
Motion accuses judge of 'predetermining' trial's outcome
In their motion for a mistrial, lawyers for Donald Trump and his adult sons argue that Judge Engoron has "predetermined the outcome of this proceeding and is merely going through the motions before it ultimately doles out punishment."
Writing that the actions of both Engoron and his clerk create an appearance of impropriety that has resulted in "biased rulings," Trump's lawyers warn of wide-reaching implications.
"Left unchecked, the introduction of such demonstrable pro-Attorney General and anti-Trump/big real estate bias into a case of worldwide interest involving the front-runner for the Presidency of the United States impugns the integrity of the entire system," they write.
Their three-pronged motion argues that the extrajudicial conduct of Engoron, the political activity of his clerk, and their rulings -- including their gag order and fines -- are each irreparable harms that can only be remedied by scrapping the entire trial.
"Only the grant of a mistrial can salvage what is left of the rule of law," they write.