An expert witness in the $250 million civil fraud trial against Donald Trump said in court Friday that the former president’s political action committee has paid for a portion of his fees to testify on behalf of the defense.
Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at New York University, said that his $900,000 in compensation was split between the Trump Organization and Trump’s Save America PAC.
While it’s not unusual for a defendant in a trial to pay expert witness fees — in this case, the Trump Organization — the use of campaign-oriented funds underscores the large amount of money being spent by Trump’s PAC on his legal battles.
Save America spent more than $20 million on legal fees in the first six months of the year, according to campaign finance reports filed in July with the Federal Election Commission. The legal expenditures accounted for two-thirds of the political operation’s total spending in the first half of the year.
A review of FEC records shows a single payment from the Save America PAC to Bartov in April, when he was first retained as an expert, for $40,500.
In a July deposition, after the period covered by the FEC filing, Bartov said his hourly rate was $1,350 and billed monthly. He noted that the defense at that point had paid him roughly $520,000, which included two reports on Trump’s finances, and the funds came from both the Trump Organization and the PAC.
“Sometimes I see Trump Organization. Sometimes I see Save America,” Bartov said, referring to the how the transfers appeared on his bank statements at the time. He added that roughly $220,000 to $250,000 “came from what it says on the statement, ‘Save America,’ maybe it’s Mr. Trump, I don’t know, but it says ‘Save America.’”
On Friday, Bartov said he has devoted some 650 hours to working on the case, the equivalent to three-plus months of 50-hour workweeks.
The NYU professor, whose research centers on financial reporting, equity valuation and executive compensation, has appeared in court to deliver expert testimony more than a dozen times, including for the federal government.
During his testimony on Thursday, Bartov contended that there was “no evidence whatsoever for any accounting fraud,” and argued that the New York Attorney General’s Office had drawn flawed conclusions about Trump’s financial statements. The trial stems from a lawsuit the attorney general filed against the Trumps and the Trump Organization, accusing them of inflating financial statements by billions of dollars.
Trump, who attended the trial on Thursday, referred to Bartov as “a very strong witness, a very powerful witness and a highly respected person.”
Save America did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bartov’s testimony.