NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s multibillion-dollar financial fraud trial kicked off in Manhattan on Monday with the former president spending the day scowling at the defense table and watching his lawyers fight for his business legacy.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, told presiding Judge Arthur Engoron that the AG still had much to prove hot off the heels of her stunning victory last week.
Engoron last week found Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr. and top executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeff McConney liable for James’ top fraud claim. The judge found Trump and his executives habitually cooked the books between 2011 and 2021, making Trump seem $2.2 billion richer than he was some years by inflating the value of buildings emblazoned with his name.
The judge’s ruling also ordered Trump to be stripped of all owned and controlled New York business certificates. The devastating blow could see him ostracized from doing business in the city where he created his image as a dynamo deal maker after inheriting his father’s sprawling housing empire if he doesn’t get the ruling overturned on appeal.
“Year after year — loan after loan — the defendants misrepresented Mr. Trump’s net worth to maintain those favorable interest rates,” Wallace said as James watched the first day of her sweeping case from the courtroom’s front row.
Wallace went on to describe how Trump and his team filed and signed off on false statements intending to defraud banks, lenders and other financial entities to score better loan terms, higher coverage limits at lower premiums, lower taxes and other illegal cost-saving measures.
For “those illegal acts, together with fraud,” Wallace said, the AG is seeking $250 million and to permanently bar Trump and his associates from brokering real estate deals or borrowing from banks for the next five years. She also wants to ban them from heading a New York business once and for all.
The jam-packed day of opening arguments and witness testimony saw as much action outside the courtroom as inside. About 50 anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the courthouse awaiting his arrival holding placards reading, “Trump Lies all the Time” and “Trump can run but he can’t hide from justice.”
For his part, the ex-president took every chance he got to jab at James and Engoron in comments to reporters.
“We’re going to be here for months with a judge (who’s) already made up his mind. It’s ridiculous,” Trump raved late in the day, alleging “election interference” as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
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