NEW YORK: Donald Trump sat in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday and listened to a New York state lawyer accuse him of generating more than $1 billion by lying about his real estate empire, claims the former president called a “scam”.
The trial in a downtown Manhattan courtroom case concerns accusations by state Attorney General Letitia James that Trump inflated his assets and his own net worth from 2011 to 2021 to obtain favorable bank loans and lower insurance premiums.
James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organisation.
Trump looked on with his arms crossed are Kevin Wallace, a lawyer in James’ office, called Trump “materially inaccurate” in describing his finances to banks and insurers. “This isn’t business as usual, and this isn’t how sophisticated parties deal with each other,” Wallace said in his opening statement. “These are not victimless crimes.”
Ex-US president calls the case a ‘scam’ and ‘sham’
The attorney general has said Trump overvalued assets including his Trump Tower penthouse apartment in Manhattan, his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and various office towers and golf clubs, and inflated his own fortune by as much as $2.2 billion.
Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, countered in his opening statement that the financials for Trump and the Trump organisation were entirely legal. “It is one of the most highly successful brands in the world, and he has made a fortune literally being right about real estate investments,” Kise said. “There was no intent to defraud, there was no illegality, there was no default, there was no breach, there was no reliance from the banks, there were no unjust profits, and there were no victims.”
Trump holds a commanding lead over rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He wore a dark blue suit, a brighter blue tie and an American flag pin on his lapel, and told reporters before entering the courtroom that the case was a “scam,” a “sham,” and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.
“We have a great company. I built a great company. It’s tremendous,” Trump said. “It’s got some of the greatest real estate assets in the world. And now I have to go in before a rogue judge.”
“The law is both powerful and fragile,” Letitia James said before entering the courtroom. “No matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law.”
Trump’s trial is overseen by Justice Arthur Engoron. The case largely concerns penalties that Trump, his adult sons and 10 of his companies must face after Engoron last week found them liable for fraud. Before opening arguments, Engoron described himself as a generalist on the law. “One thing I know a lot about is the definition of fraud,” he said.
The US Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by John Eastman, a conservative lawyer indicted in August over his role in efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, in a case involving 10.
The justices declined to hear Eastman’s appeal of a lower court’s refusal to wipe out a judge’s determination that the emails could be turned over to a House of Representatives committee.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2023