What to know about Trump's fraud trial
- A $250 million fraud lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James against former President Donald Trump, his company and his two adult sons had its first day of trial today.
- Trump is accused of misrepresenting his net worth to the tune of billions. He said his appearances in court are "to fight for my name and reputation."
- Speaking to reporters ahead of the trial, James said that "no one is above the law" and that she was confident "justice will prevail."
- Appearing with Trump in court today were his lawyers, his son Eric and his adviser Jason Miller. One of his lawyers, Chris Kise, got into a heated exchange with Judge Arthur Engoron.
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Trump repeats 'election interference' claims after first day of trial
In brief remarks after leaving the courtroom, Trump maintained that he has done "nothing wrong" and insisted that the lawsuit was part of an effort to interfere with the 2024 election.
"Banks loved our business, they loved our deals, they weren't defrauded," Trump said. "They made a lot of money, and they considered me a very good client."
The former president also complained that his time spent at trial was keeping him off the campaign trail.
"I've been sitting in a courthouse all day long instead of being in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or a lot of other places I could be at," Trump said. "This is a horrible situation for our country."
"It's election interference," he added.
First day of trial concludes
The first day of the Trump civil trial has concluded.
Trump appears ruffled during former accountant's testimony
As the day draws to a close, Trump is becoming very animated while talking to his attorneys. He in particular seems to be taking great issue with some of Bender’s testimony.
At times, he appears to be very upset, with his face turning beet red. At one point, Trump turned to Cliff Robert, the attorney for his adult sons, and whisper-yelled at him, while pointing and waving his finger.
Courtroom riveted as Bender testifies about his accounting work for Trump
Donald Bender testified that when he did accounting for the Trump Organization from 2011 to 2021, he spent roughly 45% to 55% of his time on Trump-related work.
Bender said he prepared documents of Trump's assets and liabilities and that he would take information given by his client presented in a financial statement. He said that before technology improved, he would go to Trump Tower in person to obtain the necessary documents and put them in a binder. Then technology changed, he said, and they were able to get the records by email.
Even though Bender was speaking in fairly dry accounting terms, everyone in the courtroom was still fully engaged and hanging on his every word.
New York prosecutors call first witness, Donald Bender
The state has called its first witness, Donald Bender, who previously testified in the state's criminal trial against the Trump Organization, which led to the conviction of the company's former CFO Allen Weisselberg. He was released from jail earlier this year.
Bender was a partner at Mazars USA LLP who spent years preparing Trump's personal tax returns. Bender said in testimony last year at the Trump Organization criminal trial that the former president had losses totaling $900 million in 2009 and 2010.
Weisselberg had already pleaded guilty at that point and was cooperating with prosecutors. The company was ultimately found guilty and fined $1.6 million.
The lunch break is over and the trial has resumed inside the courtroom.
Trump rages against judge overseeing trial and N.Y. attorney general
During the lunch break, Trump spoke in front of cameras inside the courthouse arguing that Engoron is a "rogue judge" and that James is a "corrupt person" and a "terrible person."
The former president also called Engoron a "Trump-hater," and at one point spoke about how people are "being murdered right outside in the street" and that nothing happens to those criminals.
“We’re going to be here for months with a judge that already made up his mind. It’s ridiculous,” Trump complained to reporters during the lunch break, amping up his attacks on Engoron, whose rulings in the case could cost Trump’s company hundreds of millions of dollars and impact its ability to do business in New York.
“This is a judge that should be disbarred. This is a judge that should be out of office. This is a judge that some people say could be charged criminally for what he’s doing. He’s interfering with an election, and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said.
Asked why he wanted to attend the opening of the trial today, he said he wanted to "watch this witch hunt," whose purpose, he said, is to interfere with the country's elections.
Trump also bashed special counsel Jack Smith, who has charged him with federal counts in two other unrelated cases.
Court has recessed for a lunch break
The trial has recessed for a lunch break. On his way out of the courtroom, Trump stared down James, looking down at her as he walked by and he glared angrily.
Trump lawyer argues with judge in heated exchange
Lead Trump attorney Chris Kise jumped in when Judge Engoron asked Clifford Robert, attorney for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, at what point is something "material." Kise stood up and told Engoron that he owes it to the defendant to listen to the evidence, saying: “I don’t think you are an estimate on government accounting and they will tell you what is material and what is not.”
“I would caution you to listen, there is a lot more to this story, there are layers to this and we need to give witnesses an opportunity to take the stand and learn what this case is about,” Kise said, adding that there are experts the judge hasn’t heard from.
Kise said James opened the door to issues involving valuation, which he said is “a serious accusation to make against one of the most successful employers in this state.”
Kise argued with the judge vociferously, which grew heated as he stood over Trump, who was seated next to him. At one point, Trump shook his head very dramatically, sat up in his chair and turned toward the gallery.
Alina Habba speaks for the defense, argues there was no intent to defraud lenders
Trump lawyer Alina Habba began speaking for the defense and accused Michael Cohen of being a liar and said that the attorney general would like the court to believe that Trump and his family committed a conspiracy to defraud banks.
Habba said the attorney general's team has to prove that there is an intent to defraud lenders. She said that the lenders made money and that they were not defrauded. Habba said that this case could set a dangerous precedent for all business owners in New York state.
"There was no intent to defraud, period, the end," she said.
Trump was listening intently as Habba went back and forth with the judge.
New York civil fraud trial could seriously hamper Trump businesses
Trump returns to court, ignores James
Trump is back in court following the break. He walked past James who was looking in the other direction, so the two did not make eye contact.
Opening statements come to a close sooner than expected
The prosecution and defense have now both concluded their opening statements and the court took a 10-minute break as of 11:40 ET.
Both Wallace's opening statement for the prosecution, as well as Kise's for the defense, were shorter than expected, not nearly reaching the two-hour mark they were each allotted.
Within their time, Wallace and Kise both gave detailed accounts of the president and his company's financial statements. There were notable differences in the valuations cited by the two lawyers in their respective statements.
As the trial took a break, Trump got out of his chair and walked out of the courtroom, bypassing AG James and not even looking at her.
New York’s lawsuit against Trump is different from his other legal troubles: It’s personal
Trump is no stranger to legal scrutiny, but there’s something different about this $250 million lawsuit: This time, it’s as personal for him as it is political.
James’ suit strikes directly at Trump’s children and at the core of his persona as a billionaire businessman who left an indelible imprint on New York’s skyline.
The real estate empire he flaunted was propped up by a network of fraudulent business dealings that played out for years, the suit alleges. If James prevails in court, the former president and three of his children would be banned from serving as officers of companies in New York — the state that gave rise to his global brand.
Trump is already facing a slew of state and federal investigations into his business practices, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the removal of sensitive documents from the White House. In all cases, Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Allies say that, if anything, James’ lawsuit will rally Republicans around him.
Trump's defense team delivers opening arguments
Trump's attorney Chris Kise delivered the opening statement for the defense.
He argued that the defense interprets the evidence differently and that it maintains that Trump made billions of dollars by being right about real estate investments and building one of the most successful real estate empires in the world.
He said that the evidence demonstrates that there was no intent to defraud and that the loan transactions were "successful" and "profitable," saying, "The banks made well over $100 million."
Kise reiterated that the defense believes that the evidence will show no material fraud. He said that one witness, Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at NYU, will show that there is no such thing as objective valuation and the court will also hear that this agreement is not fraud. There are different ways to value a given property, he said, and that there can be no intent to defraud.
Testimonies of key Trump associates featured prominently during opening statements
The attorney general's office showed several depositions previously captured on camera for the case featuring several of Trump's family members and former aides.
Eric Trump's deposition, for example, showed the former president's son saying that he doesn't remember a video conference talking about the financial conditions and statements. The deposition of Don Jr., the former president's eldest son, showed him laughing after he was asked about basic accounting, which he said he probably learned in Accounting 101 at Wharton and that he is not an accountant.
During Trump's deposition, he was questioned about statements of financial conditions and he was asked if Allen Weisselberg is responsible for it.
"I would say yes," Trump said in the deposition.
James' office also played the deposition from Michael Cohen in which he was asked about preparing documents and he said he was involved in that process in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Cohen said that Trump wanted to be higher on the Forbes list and Weisselberg would inflate the numbers, and increase the value of assets so that he would appear higher on the list.
Patrick Birney, a vice president at the Trump Organization, said Trump "likes to see it go up."
The AG's office's opening statements concluded shortly after 11:00 a.m. ET.
How Trump is reacting to the AG's opening statements
Trump for the majority of the opening statements stares directly forward, with his hands crossed over his chest, while looking at his desktop monitor with all of the graphics the prosecutor is showing. Wallace is deep into the numbers of the financials that he is accused of manipulating to his benefit.
Trump also tapped his feet and fidgeted from time to time. At one point, he whispers into the ear of his lawyer Chris Kise, who sits to the right of him. He yawned as Kise went to go to the stand for opening statements.
Lawyer for AG's office delivers plaintiff's opening statement
Lawyer Kevin Wallace delivered the opening statement for the New York attorney general’s office. Trump was seen chatting with his lawyers Alina Habba and Chris Kise during Wallace’s opening statement.
Wallace began the opening statement by mentioning Engoron’s recent ruling that found Trump committed repeated acts of fraud for years. He said the prosecution will show those illegal acts provide evidence needed to bar Trump from bank loans, and that each defendant continued to engage in illegal acts such as falsifying the records of the Trump Organization.
Wallace said that Trump overvalued his statements from $812 million to $2.2 billion, that he knew they were false and used them to obtain benefits he was not entitled to.
The opening statement featured video from the depositions of longtime Trump associates including ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, both of whom are expected to appear as witnesses.
PHOTO: Trump in court
Engoron clarifies how his name is pronounced
The judge says his name is pronounced "EN-GORE-ON."
Trump enters court with Eric Trump, others
Among those Trump entered the courthouse with today are his lawyer, Alina Habba, strategist Jason Miller and his son Eric Trump.
Trump told reporters as he entered the building, "There is no crime, the crime is against me."
Judge denies media request to allow cameras to film opening statements
The judge denied a request by a group of media companies to allow cameras to film the opening statements.
Scenes from the court
James arrived in the courtroom at 9:30 a.m. and greeted each member of the prosecution team.
The prosecution team arrived in force with about a dozen lawyers as Trump’s lead Secret Service agent surveyed the defense table where the former president will sit. There is tension combined with excitement in the air as the trial begins, with murmurs that Trump’s wife, Melania, is here as well, but this has not been confirmed.
Lead Trump attorney Chris Kise exchanged a warm greeting with James, who stood up to greet him. James is in the front row on the right side of the room facing the bench with direct line of sight to where Trump will sit. A court officer is seen sitting next to James.
Trump attorney and spokeswoman Alina Habba is also in attendance, along with several other Trump attorneys who are sitting down in the first row of the gallery. Secret Service agents are seen every few feet around the courtroom, with court officers in white shirts crowded at the entrance.
Court comes to order
At about 10:10 a.m., the court was called to order to begin the trial.
Trump arrives at the courthouse
Trump arrived at the courthouse shortly before 10 a.m. ET.
He delivered remarks to reporters, defending his financial statements and calling the trial "a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time."
James arrives at New York Supreme Court
James arrived at the New York Supreme Court. Speaking to reporters in front of the court, she referred to the decision from Engoron last week that found Trump and other defendants “have committed persistent and repeated fraud.”
“Today we will prove our other claims,” she said. “My message is simple: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law. And it is my responsibility and my duty and my job to enforce it.”
“The law is both powerful and fragile and today in court we’ll prove our case,” the New York attorney general added. “I thank you all for being here and again justice will prevail.”
Trump releases video statement ahead of court appearance
Ahead of his expected court appearance, Trump issued remarks in a video message sent via text to his supporters this morning.
“Our country is in a very dark place right now,” he said. “But even after everything the Deep State has done to me, I will never give up an America. Mark my words: in 2024 we will win back the White House. We will make America great again. I have no doubt about it.”
Trump accused “the RINOs, the communists, the Marxists, the fascists” of unfairly targeting him as he pushed his false claims of a “rigged” 2020 election.
“We will not only survive, we will be stronger than ever before,” he said. “We’re fighting a fight like nobody ever thought possible. And we’re winning.”
James says Trump 'cheated the system' ahead of trial start
James released a statement today ahead of the trial, which alleges that for years Trump has "falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system."
The New York attorney general referred to the decision from Engoron last week, finding that Trump had committed fraud for years.
"In this country, there are consequences for this type of persistent fraud, and we look forward to demonstrating the full extent of his fraud and illegality during trial," James said in her statement.
“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,” she continued.
James plans to be in court today
James plans to be in the courtroom today for the start of the trial, according to a person familiar with her plans. This sets up a potential faceoff between James and Trump, who said he plans to be in the New York County courthouse.
James alleges some well-known Trump properties were overvalued by the organization
In her lawsuit against Trump and his company, James alleges the former president issued fraudulent statements that falsely inflated the value of almost two dozen properties and assets owned by him and the Trump Organization.
Some of the assets and tactics allegedly used to inflate their values include:
- Trump Tower: Trump’s triplex apartment was valued at 30,000 square feet, but in reality was only 10,996 square feet. The apartment was therefore erroneously valued at $326 million in 2015 — more than three times the value of the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York City, according to the attorney general's office.
- Trump Park Avenue: Trump allegedly inflated the value of the property in part by valuing rent-stabilized condominium units at market rate and bypassing outside valuations. The AG’s office noted that an outside bank-ordered appraisal valued 12 rent-stabilized units in the building at $750,000 total in 2010. However, the untested were valued at almost $50 million total in 2011 and 2012 statements.
- Mar-a-Lago: Trump's Florida resort was valued as high as $739 million, allegedly based on false claims that it could be developed and sold for residential use. Trump, however, signed deeds donating his residential development rights, restricting changes to the property and limiting the use of the property to a social club, according to the AG’s office.
- Trump Aberdeen: The valuation of the golf course, located in Aberdeen, Scotland, was based on the assumption that 2,500 homes could be developed, but the Trump Organization obtained zoning approval to develop fewer than 1,500 cottages and apartments. And many of those were expressly identified solely as short-term rentals, the AG’s office said.
- Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida: Trump purchased the golf court for $5 million, but less than a year later he valued it at $62 million on the 2013 statement, which amounted to a $1,100% markup. Trump allegedly used several deceptive methods to fraudulently overstate the value of the property, such as adding an additional 30% to its value for the Trump brand in 2013 and 2015, and 15% from 2015 through 2020, according to the AG’s office.
Trump says he'll be in court to 'fight for my name and reputation'
Trump said he will be in court in New York for the start of his civil fraud trial in a post on his Truth Social platform last night.
He also took aim at James, who brought the $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his company, and Engoron, who will decide the case.
“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation against a corrupt and racist Attorney General, Letitia James, who campaigned on ‘getting Trump,’ and a Trump Hating Judge who is unfair, unhinged, and vicious in his PURSUIT of me,” Trump wrote.
N.Y. judge ruled Trump committed fraud and lied about net worth for years
A New York judge ruled in the state attorney general’s $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his company last week that the former president committed repeated acts of fraud for years.
According to the ruling, which allowed the civil trial to begin this week, Trump lied to banks and insurers by both overvaluing and undervaluing his assets when it was to his benefit, while exaggerating his net worth to the tune of billions of dollars.
In his 35-page ruling, Engoron said Trump continually lied on his financial statements and was able to get favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums as a result. Trump’s legal arguments defending the statements are based in “a fantasy world, not the real world,” he wrote.
Trump civil fraud trial gets underway in New York
A $250 million civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general’s office against Trump, his company and two of his adult children is set to go to trial today in a case that could have widespread implications for the former president’s businesses.
The no-jury trial in Manhattan is expected to last about three months, concluding by Dec. 22, and will be decided by Engoron.
The ruling, which allowed the case to go to trial this week, will also have practical repercussions for Trump’s numerous limited liability companies, or LLCs. The judge’s order set in motion a dissolution process for entities like Trump Organization LLC, which has helped expand the Trump brand over the years.