NEW YORK — Donald Trump wanted to get higher on the Forbes billionaires list and save a fortune on loan terms by overvaluing his properties, according to evidence that a lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James previewed for a packed courtroom at the former president’s civil fraud trial.
Clips of sworn testimony by Trump Organization officials and emails with the Trump family’s bankers were featured in the state’s opening statement Monday as New York argued that the company falsified asset values to get better terms from Deutsche Bank and others.
Trump, 77, sat in the front row of the Manhattan courtroom flanked by a team of lawyers and Secret Service. He watched as the state played a past clip of his former lawyer Michael Cohen testifying that the disputed assets were often valued more to get Trump “higher on the Forbes list,” apparently to suggest a tendency to exaggerate his wealth.
“It was basically the number that Mr. Trump wanted,” Cohen said in the clip.
James alleges that Trump and his company used false asset valuations to inflate his wealth by billions of dollars a year from 2011 to 2021. He is also accused of using false valuations to get cheaper insurance policies. All told, Trump allegedly reaped $250 million in illegal profit.
State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has already found Trump liable for fraud. The trial will now focus on six remaining claims and the amount of damages owed. It will help determine the fate of Trump’s real estate empire in New York and marks the first of a slew of others, including four criminal trials, that lie ahead even as Trump runs in the 2024 presidential election.
Trump, wearing a blue suit and blue tie, took a seat in the front of the room, with his arms crossed, and Deputy Attorney General Kevin Wallace began delivering his opening statement. Trump’s son Eric was seated in the row behind his father. Both Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are also defendants in the case.
In his own opening, Trump’s lawyer said the evidence at trial will show that the claims involve only successful and profitable loan transactions with no victims, and that the banks that lent him the money made more than $100 million in interest.
“President Trump has made billions of dollars building up one of the most successful business empires in the world,” said Chris Kise.
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