Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, at a Manhattan courthouse, in New York City, U.S., October 2, 2023.
Seth Wenig | Reuters
The $250 million civil fraud trial that could see former President Donald Trump permanently banned from doing business in New York began Monday.
James alleged the defendants misstated the values of real estate properties by billions of dollars in business records to obtain better loan and insurance terms, and tax benefits.
Trump, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, arrived at Manhattan Supreme Court for the start of the trial.
Before it began, Trump claimed the case was a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidential campaign.
“Everything was perfect. There was no crime. The crime is against me,” Trump told reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom.
James notched a massive win against Trump and other defendants last week when Judge Arthur Engoron ruled they were liable for the fraud claims. Engoron in that ruling canceled the defendants’ New York business certificates and ordered an independent receiver to oversee their dissolution.
Engoron, not a jury, will decide whether the defendants are liable for the other six claims at the trial, which is expected to conclude in late December.
“The people have already proven” that Trump’s financial statements from 2011 to 2021 were “false and misleading,” said Kevin Wallace, a prosecutor from the attorney general’s office, in his opening statement to the judge.
Wallace played video clips of depositions from key witnesses, including Trump, former Trump Org Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and former personal attorney Michael Cohen.
In one clip, Cohen said that he and Weisselberg would inflate the value of real estate assets in order to reach the figure that Trump wanted in order to help him climb higher on Forbes’ wealth rankings.
Wallace argued while a person may exaggerate their wealth for Forbes Magazine or television audiences, they “cannot do it while conducting business in the State of New York.”
But defense attorney Christopher Kise said the evidence will show that “there was no intent to defraud.”
The loans that Trump’s business secured were “successful” and “profitable,” Kise said.
“The banks made well over a hundred million dollars,” Kise added.
A box is carried as the civil fraud trial of former President Donald Trump is set to begin at New York State Supreme Court on October 02, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
James, who is also in court, in a statement said, “For years, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system.”
“We won the foundation of our case last week and proved that his purported net worth has long been rooted in incredible fraud,” James said. “No matter how rich or powerful you are, there are not two sets of laws for people in this country. The rule of law must apply equally to everyone, and it is my responsibility to make sure that it does.”
Ivanka Trump was removed from the case in June, after an appeals court ruled that the claims against her were barred by the statute of limitations. But two of Trump’s other children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who took over the family business after their father became president in 2016, remain as defendants.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.