Former President Donald Trump speaks with journalists during a midday break from court proceedings in New York, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023InternationalIndiaAfricaThe latest trial against the former US president came underway after a New York state judge found the one-time commander-in-chief liable for committing fraud byway of inflating his business portfolio. The presiding judge, Judge Arthur Engoron, earlier remarked that the defendant was working in an “fantasy world, not the real world.”Monday marked the official ‘day one’ of courtroom proceedings in the civil fraud trial in which former US President Donald Trump and company are alleged to have engaged in nefarious business practices that centered around the misevaluation of various real estate properties.The trial was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has told reporters that she remains confident that “justice will prevail” in the matter. The official is seeking at least $250 million in fines and a permanent ban against Trump and his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, from conducting any business in the state.So, what were some key takeaways from the day’s events?
Trump Account Posts While Ex-Prez Inside Court
In the lead-up to Donald Trump’s civil lawsuit trial in New York, the former president repeatedly called the case, along with the multitude of other cases against him, a politically-motivated witch-hunt. That Trump continued to make that assertion and attack Attorney General Letitia James when arriving at the courthouse, during recess and after the day’s events surprised no one; however, what raised some eyebrows was Trump’s Truth Social account posting while the former president was in the courthouse.The posts did not come before opening statements – no one is accusing Trump of posting during the trial – but his account did post several videos of James talking about suing Trump while he was sitting inside the Manhattan courtroom.AmericasNew York Civil Fraud Trial Part of US Government ‘Election Interference’ Effort – TrumpYesterday, 15:48 GMTThe Trump defense team had tried to argue that James’ suit was politically motivated by pointing to comments she made during her campaign about going after Trump. Judge Arthur Engoron and an appellate court ruled against the argument and Engoron reminded Trump’s defense team of that when they attempted to bring it up during opening arguments.“Ms. James’ motivations are no longer at issue in this case, are they?” he asked.
Barring Trump From NY Business Deals
New York is where Trump first entered the public view. Now, decades later, the state attorney general’s office is looking to bar the former commander-in-chief from ever being able to carry out business in the Empire State.Kevin Wallace, of the AG’s office, argued Trump’s alleged fraudulent financial statements resulted in banks taking on a hidden risk “to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.”“Year after year, loan after loan, the defendants misrepresented Mr. Trump’s net worth to maintain those favorable interest rates,” Wallace told the judge.© AP Photo / Brittainy NewmanAlina Habba, center, speaks alongside Former President Donald Trump’s legal team outside at New York Supreme Court for Trump’s civil business fraud trial on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)Alina Habba, center, speaks alongside Former President Donald Trump’s legal team outside at New York Supreme Court for Trump’s civil business fraud trial on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)The attorney general’s office alleges Trump inflated the value of properties he owned by the billions between 2011 and 2021 in order to secure favorable loans and insurance arrangements, with some property values reportedly being inflated by over $2 billion.Some of those properties include Trump Park Avenue and the famed Mar-a-Lago Florida resort, which was raided by multiple FBI agents looking to retrieve troves of classified documents that were being stored on the grounds.
Trump Lawyers Argue Real Estate ‘Highly Speculative’
Trump defense attorney Chris Kise countered in his opening arguments by saying that Trump made his billions by utilizing his real estate knowledge – not by engaging in fraudulent business practices.“President Trump has made billions of dollars building one of the most successful real estate empires in the world,” Kise said. “He has made a fortune literally about being right about real estate.”Kise also pointed out that while the leading German Deutsche Bank valued Trump’s net worth at $2 billion less than he did, they still underwrote a loan for him. That is evidence, Kise argued, that real estate valuations can vary greatly.© Brendan McDermidFormer President Donald Trump, center, appears in court Monday, Oct 2, 2023, in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court Monday, Oct 2, 2023, in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)The lawyer went on to remark that when is comes down to business in the Big Apple, “this is what happens every day in this city.”In order to ground the argument, reports have indicated that the Trump camp is seeking to call in witnesses from Deutsche Bank.
Trump Properties the ‘Mona Lisa’ of Real Estate
Another Trump defense attorney, Alina Habba, argued that Engoron’s valuations of Trump properties were wildly inaccurate, comparing the estates to the Mona Lisa, which is commonly said to be the most valuable painting in the world.
"[The Trump National Doral Miami hotel] would sell for at least a billion dollars. Mar-a-Lago at least a billion,” Habba said. “The value is what someone is willing to pay. The Trump properties are Mona Lisa properties."
“That is not fraud, that is real estate,” she added. © AP Photo / Steve HelberFILE – This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.FILE – This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.The judge ruled that Mar-a-Lago was worth $18 million in a ruling last week.Habba and Engoron went on to spare over the issue, with the judge arguing that the financial statements were meant to show what their value was, not what they could theoretically be sold for. “These statements of financial condition were current, current market value. The point is what were they worth then.”
First Witness Takes Stand
Donald Bender, a former accountant and tax consultant for Trump was called as the first witness in the case, and was promptly moved to be disqualified by the Trump team although Engoron ruled against them. Bender testified he largely relied on financial information provided by the Trump organization, while also noting that when he noticed mistakes he would point them out to the Trump organization. © AP Photo / Elizabeth WilliamsThis courtroom sketch shows Judge Arthur Engoron, left, listening to testimony from accountant Donald Bender, right, during the fraud lawsuit trial of former President Donald Trump, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)This courtroom sketch shows Judge Arthur Engoron, left, listening to testimony from accountant Donald Bender, right, during the fraud lawsuit trial of former President Donald Trump, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)In fact, in one incident Bender recalled that he pointed out a discrepancy involving the penthouse of Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. Bender said he corrected the number at least twice.The discrepancies with the penthouse were mentioned in documents in the case.“Ms. Trump’s rental agreement for Penthouse A in Trump Park Avenue included an option to purchase the unit for $8,500,000. But in the 2011 and 2012 Statements of Financial Condition, this unit was valued at $20,820,000—approximately two and a half times as much as the option price, with no disclosure of the existence of the option,” the lawsuit stated.Bender is expected to continue his testimony on Tuesday.