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 AG and others.
Trump, 77, sat at the defense table in the Manhattan courtroom flanked by a team of lawyers. He watched on a computer monitor 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. The numbers were made up, Cohen said.
“It was basically the number that Mr. Trump wanted,” Cohen said in the clip.
James claims 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.
At the end of the court proceeding Monday, Engoron hinted he may have concerns that the statute of limitations may have run out on some of the claims and asked the attorney general’s lawyers if they can link the evidence about Trump’s misrepresentations in 2011 to affecting lenders in 2014.
Deputy Attorney General Kevin Wallace assured the judge the link would be made.
Trump, who wore a blue suit and blue tie, took a seat at the defense table, with his arms crossed throughout the attorney general’s opening statement. Trump’s son Eric was seated behind his father in the public section of the courtroom. Both Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are also defendants in the case. James was also present, seated in the first row behind her trial team.
It was the first time Trump and James found themselves together in a courtroom at a trial over a lawsuit the attorney general brought against him.
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