(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump is back in the courtroom for the second day of the trial, in which he, his sons Eric and Don Jr., and 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 while lowering his tax burden.
Trump has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have described him as a “master of finding value where others do not,” arguing that Trump’s alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
-Judge clarifies statute of limitations remarks
-Trump again attacks AG on way into court
-First witness eyes Trump’s decade-old financial statements
-Ex-accountant says statements were ‘Trump Org’s responsibility’
-Judge has already found that Trump overvalued his assets
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Oct 03, 10:48 AM EDT
Judge clarifies statute of limitations remarks
Justice Arthur Engoron, who was a frequent target of Trump’s attacks yesterday, began the trial’s second day by clarifying some of his closing remarks about the statute of limitations in the case.
After court yesterday, Trump construed his remarks as a victory, suggesting “80% of the cases is over” after leaving court on Monday.
Engoron apologized for his comments and stated that any future real estate deals “restart” the statute of limitations — meaning that the attorney general’s office needs to “connect the dots” to include the evidence about a 2011 deal discussed on Monday.
“I understand that the defendants strongly disagree on this and will appeal on this ground,” Engoron said.
He concluded his remarks by reminding counsel not to relitigate issues already decided — something that Trump’s attorneys seemingly did on Day One of the trial.
“This trial is not an opportunity to relitigate what I have already decided … that is why we have appeals,” Engoron said.
Oct 03, 10:41 AM EDT
Trump again attacks AG on way into court
Former President Donald Trump continued his attacks on New York Attorney General Letitia James before entering the courtroom for the second day of his $250 million civil fraud trial in downtown Manhattan.
“She ran on the basis ‘I will get Trump’ without knowing anything about me,” he said to reporters outside court.
Both Trump and James are present this morning in court, where state attorneys are set to continue their direct examination of longtime Mazars accountant Donald Bender.
Oct 03, 7:14 AM EDT
Trump expected in court for second day
Former President Donald Trump signaled he will be in court again Tuesday morning in a post on his social media platform.
“See you in Court Tuesday morning,” Trump posted.
The former president then went on to attack New York Attorney General Letitia James. He claimed he had a “good day at trial” during Monday’s proceedings.
Oct 02, 6:15 PM EDT
First witness eyes Trump’s decade-old financial statements
Testifying about the preparation of the Trump Organization’s statements of financial condition in 2011, former Mazars USA accountant Donald Bender said Trump executives largely provided the input data for statements, in addition to dictating the standards by which the work was completed.
“We would cut and paste that information into a new worksheet,” Bender said about the approach taken by Mazar after receiving new data from co-defendant Jeffrey McConney of the Trump Organization.
When asked about the compliance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — which Bender testified are the standards for accounting in the United States — Bender repeatedly placed responsibility in the lap of the Trump organization.
“That was the Trump Organization’s responsibility,” Bender testified about GAAP compliance.
Bender acknowledged that he rarely questioned the inputs from the Trump Organization, and when he did, he largely dealt with McConney and executives other than Trump and his adult sons.
Repeatedly asked by the state attorney if Mazars would have issued the statements if they had known the Trump Organization included material misrepresentations in their data, Bender reiterated that Mazars would not have issued the statements.
When Judge Engoron remarked at the end of the trial day that the state would still need to present further evidence to prove that the 2011 statement was within the statute of limitations, Trump seized the statement as a partial victory.
“The last five minutes was outstanding, because the judge actually conceded that the statute of limitations … is in effect,” Trump told reporters as he was leaving court.
Engoron, however, did not completely rule out the 2011 evidence during trial, instead appearing to remind counsel that they need to show the 2011 statement represents an ongoing concern that falls within the statute of limitations.
Testimony is scheduled to resume on Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET.
Oct 02, 3:50 PM EDT
Ex-accountant says statements were ‘Trump Org’s responsibility’
Prosecutors have called their first witness to the stand: Donald Bender, a former accountant at Mazars USA, the firm that for years handled Trump’s taxes.
Bender testified at length about his involvement in compiling Trump’s statements of financial condition between 2011 and 2020, which he described as “balance [sheets] of Mr. Trump’s assets and liabilities.”
Bender said the standards and inputs for the statements were largely decided by Trump Organization executives.
“That was the Trump Organization’s responsibility,” Bender said about the accounting standard used in the statements.
As Bender answered the state’s questions, Trump was seen taking notes at the defense table.
Bender described spending roughly half his time on Trump’s business and personal financial matters toward the end of his career at Mazars.
The firm severed its business relationship with Trump last year after learning of the attorney general’s findings during the AG’s probe.
Oct 02, 1:19 PM EDT
Trump attorney says sons made no misrepresentations
An attorney for Donald Trump’s adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., added a brief opening statement of his own, defending his clients from accusations of wrongdoing.
“There was never a material misrepresentation made by Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr.,” said Clifford Robert, the attorney for Trump’s adult sons, who help run the Trump Organization.
Robert said he disagrees “with just about everything” the state’s prosecutor said in his opening remarks, and took aim at the state’s star witness.
“Their major linchpin is Michael Cohen, a guy who lies to everyone,” Robert said of the former Trump attorney.
Oct 02, 1:10 PM EDT
AG’s case sets ‘dangerous precedent,’ defense says
Attorney General Letitia James “is setting a very dangerous precedent for any business in the state of New York,” warned Trump attorney Alina Habba in her opening statement.
Habba told the court she hadn’t planned to make opening remarks, but that she felt moved to speak after hearing the state present its own opening statement. Habba accused the attorney general of targeting Trump before taking office, claiming the investigation and lawsuit were personal in nature.
“We are attacking a sitting president and two of his children and his employees for a statement of financial condition which is frankly worth less than what they are worth,” Habba said.
Habba reiterated many of the points made earlier by co-counsel Christopher Kise, highlighting the fact that “these lenders made money,” and arguing that “real estate is malleable — the values change.”
After Habba concluded her remarks, Judge Engeron engaged her in a series of follow-up questions, asking about her claim that the property appraisals at issue were “undervalued” by prosecutors.
Habba replied that “the Trump brand is worth something.”
Oct 02, 12:03 PM EDT
‘The attorney general has no case,’ defense counsel says
Former President Trump’s defense counsel will present a “very different picture of the evidence” than the prosecution alleges, and will demonstrate that “there are many ways to value assets,” according to opening remarks from Christopher Kise, Trump’s lead attorney.
“We think the evidence is going to establish … President Trump has made billions of dollars building one of the most successful real estate empires in the world,” Kise said, reiterating sentiments he conveyed in pretrial motions.
Kise offered a glimpse into the former president’s defense, including plans to present testimony from a New York University professor who will explain that “there is no one generally accepted procedure to determine the estimated current value” of a property.
Other defense witnesses, including four Deutsche Bank officers who were involved in approving Trump’s loans, will explain how they were able to craft their own independent risk analyses meant to mitigate the claims of fraud that are core to the state’s case.
“Anyone committing fraud does not tell the other side, ‘Please do your own analysis,'” Kise said regarding Trump’s instructions to lenders.
Kise also previewed plans to undermine the state’s key witness, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who Kise said has “lied to everyone and anyone he has come in contact with.”
Kise reiterated the defense’s claim that Trump did not commit fraud and that there were no victims of his alleged conduct.
“The attorney general has no case,” Kise said.
Oct 02, 11:28 AM EDT
Defendants were ‘lying year after year,’ prosecutors say
Prosecutors intend to prove in the coming months that “each defendant engaged in repeated, persistent, illegal acts in conduct of business,” according to the opening statement from Kevin Wallace of the attorney general’s office.
Referring to Judge Engoron’s partial summary judgment last week, Wallace said that “the people have already proven” that former President Trump used “false, misleading” statements that were “repeatedly [and] persistently used in the conduct of business.”
But prosecutors will further demonstrate that Trump and his co-defendants knew those statements were false and continued to peddle them anyway in furtherance of their alleged scheme, Wallace told the judge.
“The defendants were lying year after year,” he said.
Wallace played clips of video depositions to punctuate his remarks, including testimony from Trump himself, as well as Eric Trump and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — whose congressional testimony years ago precipitated the state’s investigation and some of the key allegations underpinning their case.
“The goal was to use each of [Trump’s] assets and increase its value in order to get to the end result number,” Cohen said during his taped deposition. “It was essentially backing in numbers to each of the asset classes in order to attain the number that President Trump wanted.”
Trump and his co-defendants “knew that a high net worth was necessary to get and maintain certain financial benefits,” Wallace said, pointing to basic principles of accounting and finance.
Throughout Wallace’s remarks, the attorney general’s office flashed graphics on television screens inside the courtroom showing some of the alleged inflated values of Trump’s properties alongside the amounts the properties were appraised at.
Seated in his chair with his arms crossed, Trump visibly shook his head at times during the prosecutor’s opening statement. At one point he seemed to mutter something under his breath.
The former president whispered with his attorneys throughout.
Oct 02, 10:45 AM EDT
Opening statements underway
Opening statements are underway in former President Trump’s $250 million fraud trial.
Trump is seated between his attorneys Clifford Robert, Alina Habba and Christopher Kise.
Trump and his co-defendants face a bench trial, meaning that the sole arbiter of the case is Judge Arthur Engoron instead of a jury.
Oct 02, 10:19 AM EDT
Trump seated in courtroom
Former President Trump has taken a seat in the courtroom for the start of the trial.
“The crime is against me,” he told reporters outside the courtroom before he made his way inside.
He denounced the case in now-familiar terms, criticizing state Attorney General Letitia James as she sat inside the courtroom.
Trump also accused Judge Arthur Engoron of failing to account for the full value of his real estate portfolio, asserting his Mar-a-Lago estate is worth “50 to 100 times more” than the judge’s decision for partial summary judgment said last week.
“We have other properties, the same thing. So he devalued everything,” Trump said. “We have among the greatest properties in the world. and I have to go through this for political reasons.”
Engoron decided Trump’s statements of financial condition were fraudulent, but Trump said, “We have a clause in the contract that says, essentially, buyer beware.”
Oct 02, 10:09 AM EDT
Trump calls trial ‘political witch hunt’
Former President Trump, speaking to reporters on his arrival at the lower Manhattan courthouse, said the trial is a witch hunt resulting from his standing in the presidential polls.
“This is a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt of all time,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.
Trump said he is innocent of the accusations and that his portfolio has a much higher value than what the attorney general alleges.
Oct 02, 9:59 AM EDT
Trump attorneys call trial ‘election interference’
Members of Donald Trump’s legal team, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse prior to the start of the trial, called the fraud allegations against the former president “election interference.”
Trump’s attorneys said that Democrats were using the case to fight Trump’s efforts to retake the White House in 2024.
Oct 02, 9:43 AM EDT
Attorney general arrives at courthouse
New York Attorney General Letitia James has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan.
“No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law,” James said to the cameras before entering the courthouse.
“Today we will prove our case in court,” she said. “Justice will prevail.”
Demonstrators across the street from the courthouse cheered and applauded as the AG arrived.
Oct 02, 8:19 AM EDT
NY attorney general releases statement on 1st day of trial
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement on Monday just hours before the first day of trial in her fraud case against former President Donald Trump.
“For years, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system,” James said. “We won the foundation of our case last week and proved that his purported net worth has long been rooted in incredible fraud. In this country, there are consequences for this type of persistent fraud, and we look forward to demonstrating the full extent of his fraud and illegality during trial.”
“No matter how rich or powerful you are, there are not two sets of laws for people in this country,” she added. “The rule of law must apply equally to everyone, and it is my responsibility to make sure that it does.”
Oct 02, 8:14 AM EDT
Trial scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET
The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, et al, is scheduled to get underway in lower Manhattan at 10 a.m. with opening statements.
If opening statements are completed before the end of the day, the New York attorney general plans to begin her case by calling Trump’s former Mazars USA accountant Donald Bender to the stand.
Mazars severed its business relationship with the former president last year after learning of the attorney general’s findings during the AG’s probe.
Oct 02, 7:10 AM EDT
Judge has already found that Trump overvalued his assets
Though Trump has denied all wrongdoing alleged by the attorney general, Judge Arthur Engoron has already decided the central allegation against Trump and his co-defendants, ruling in a pretrial hearing last week that the AG had provided “conclusive evidence” that Trump overvalued his assets between $812 million and $2.2 billion.
The judge then canceled the Trump Organization’s business certificates in New York, severely restricting Trump’s ability to conduct business in the state moving forward — a move that Trump attorney Alina Habba called “nonsensical” and “outrageously overreaching.”
“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air,” Engoron wrote, citing multiple arguments made by defense to justify the allegedly inflated valuations of Trump’s assets. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
Among the issues still to be determined at trial: What additional penalties Trump might face, and what might happen with the multiple causes of action included in the attorney general’s suit.
Oct 02, 6:43 AM EDT
Trump blasts judge ahead of trial
Former President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on the judge overseeing and deciding his case, writing on Truth Social overnight that Justice Arthur Engoron should resign and be sanctioned for “abuse of power.”
Similar to his earlier post, Trump focused on the alleged inflated value of Mar-a-Lago, in addition to an appellate decision that his lawyers unsuccessfully tried to use to limit the timeframe of the case.
Oct 02, 6:39 AM EDT
Trump says he will attend trial’s opening
Former President Trump posted on his Truth Social platform Sunday night that he intends to attend the opening of the trial.
“See you in court — Monday morning,” he wrote in a post.
Earlier Sunday, multiple sources familiar with the decision told ABC News that Trump was expecting to attend.
Trump will have no speaking role in court on Monday, but it is anticipated that he’ll return to the courthouse toward the end of the state’s case when court records show he will be called as a witness.
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