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.
- Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
- Judge, clerk subjected to daily threats, official says in gag order filing
- 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
- Controller valued Mar-a-Lago at $500M despite deed restriction
Trump VP walks back testimony suggesting conspiracy
Trump Organization VP Patrick Birney, testifying for the defense, walked back testimony from earlier in the trial about receiving instructions to inflate the value of Trump's assets from the company's former CFO.
"Did Allen Weisselberg ever tell you that Mr. Trump wanted his net worth on the statement of financial condition to go up?" state attorney Eric Haren asked Birney during the state's case.
"Yes," Birney responded, describing that he received the instruction in Weisselberg's office between 2017 and 2019.
During an argument for a directed verdict earlier this month, Donald Trump's attorney Chris Kise cited that as some of the only testimony to support the New York attorney general's allegation that members of the Trump Organization conspired to inflate the former president's net worth.
Returning to the witness stand for the defense's case, Birney suggested that any changes to Trump's financial statement were based on material changes to assets.
"Were you ever directed to increase a number without there being an underlying basis to increase that valuation?" defense attorney Jennifer Hernandez asked.
"No," Birney said.
Judge Arthur Engoron adjourned court for the day after Birney completed his testimony.
"OK, class dismissed," Engoron quipped.
Deutsche Bank expected Trump to value assets fairly, banker says
Former Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic testified on cross-examination by state attorneys that Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. secured private financing using recourse -- meaning they were personally liable for the loan.
"Sorry about the recourse issue -- a dirty word, I know -- but it is a requirement in private banking," Vrablic wrote in a 2011 introductory email to Donald Trump Jr.
Vrablic confirmed that each of the Trumps she worked with -- Donald, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. -- used a personal guaranty to secure better financing terms.
"It gives the flexibility to be creative on some solutions because the person is standing behind it," Vrablic testified.
State attorney Kevin Wallace appeared to focus on the personal guaranty during the cross-examination, with the discussion bringing the focus back on the representation of the value of Trump's assets.
While Vrablic confirmed that she never personally reviewed Donald Trump's statement of financial condition, she said the bank still expected it was accurate.
"You would have had an expectation that a borrower like Mr. Trump would present their financial information fairly?" Wallace asked.
"Yes," Vrablic replied.
Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
Defense attorney Jesus Suarez, in his direct examination of Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, emphasized that Deutsche Bank was eager for Trump's business and made money from the loans they offered him.
"Your family is in the top 10 revenue generating names of Asset and Wealth Management now and he is thrilled with how it's grown," Vrablic wrote in a 2014 email to Ivanka Trump, referring to Vrablic's boss at Deutsche Bank.
That same year, Vrablic estimated that the bank made more than $6.8 million in fees from the Trump Organization.
Vrablic described her role as an intermediary between lenders at the bank and Ivanka Trump, both hunting for deals within the bank and courting the Trumps for increased business.
"Existing customers are the best source of additional customers," Vrablic said about importance of Trump's business, given his connections in real estate and his wealthy family.
Bank was concerned DC hotel deal could publicize loan terms
Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic expressed concern about the public nature of Donald Trump's 2012 acquisition of the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., fearing the deal might publicize the favorable loan terms offered by the bank, according to evidence presented at trial.
"Will our terms and conditions with you be made public? Not a credit issue, but we want to be prepared if 'other clients' see it and ask for the same deal," Vrablic wrote in a 2013 email shown at trial.
The Trump Organization won the bidding process with the federal government in 2012 for the property, and Deutsche Bank loaned the firm the money for the renovation of the decrepit building.
"We won! We're very very excited!" Ivanka Trump wrote in a 2012 email to Vrablic.
Vrablic, concerned about the loan terms being publicized, said, "We would not talk about that," regarding the importance of keeping the terms private from other high-net-worth clients.
Vrablic could not recall how the loan term details were protected, but she confirmed that Deutsche Bank made $3.3 million from their loan to the Trump Organization related to the property.
Trump, after testifying, fined $10,000 for violating gag order
Judge Engoron fined former President Trump $10,000 for violating a limited gag order after deciding that Trump referred disparagingly to his law clerk during a statement in the hallway.
Trump briefly took the witness stand, raising his hand and stating his name, "Donald John Trump, New York."
Engoron asked Trump, "Did you say, 'This judge is a very partisan judge with a person who is very partisan sitting alongside of him?'"
Trump responded "Yes," but insisted he was referring to Michael Cohen, who was seated next to the judge in the witness chair.
"You sure you didn't mean the person on the other side?" Engoron asked, referring to his law clerk, whom Trump previously disparaged in a social media post that the judge ordered him to take down as part of the limited gag order he imposed earlier in the trial.
"Yes, I'm sure," Trump answered.
Trump conceded his social media post was "maybe unfair" but he added he thinks "she's very unfair."
Engoron decided Trump's hallway statement must have referred to his clerk because "there's a barrier" between the bench and Cohen, and he suggested Trump would have called Cohen by name.
The defense immediately balked at the fine.
"I just don't think there's any clear record here," defense attorney Chris Kise said.