NEW YORK (AP) — After a fiery first day of opening arguments, lawyers in Donald Trump’s business fraud trial in New York will move on Tuesday to the more plodding task of going through years of his financial documents in what’s expected to be a weekslong fight over whether they constitute proof of fraud.
An accountant who prepared Trump’s financial statements for years was expected to be back on the witness stand for a second day.
Trump, who spent a full day Monday as an angry spectator at the civil trial, was contemplating a return to court as well.
After denouncing the judge and New York’s attorney general, who brought the lawsuit, Trump said in a courtroom hallway that he “may” be back for a second day, though he noted, “I’d love to be campaigning instead of doing this.”
The trial is the culmination of a lawsuit in which Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, has accused Trump of deceiving banks, insurers, and others for years by giving them papers that misstated the value of his assets.
Judge Arthur Engoron already delivered an early victory to James, ruling that Trump committed fraud by exaggerating the size of his penthouse at Trump Tower, claiming his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was worth as much as USD739 million, and putting similar oversized valuations on office towers, golf courses, and other assets.
The non-jury trial concerns six remaining claims in the lawsuit, and how much Trump might owe in penalties. James is seeking USD250 million and a ban on Trump doing business in New York. The judge has already ruled that some of Trump’s limited liability companies should be dissolved as punishment.
During the trial’s first day, Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney general, told the judge that Trump and his company had lied “year after year after year” in his financial statements to make him look richer than he was.
Trump’s lawyers said the statements were legitimate representations of the worth of unique luxury properties, made even more valuable because of their association with Trump. “That is not fraud. That is real estate,” attorney Alina Habba said.
After staying away from a previous trial, in which his company and one of his top executives were convicted of tax fraud, Trump spent hours sitting in court watching Monday’s opening statements, emerging several times to tell reporters that the trial was “a sham” intended to hurt his election prospects.
Visibly angry for much of the day, Trump left claiming he’d scored a victory, pointing to comments that he viewed as the judge coming around to the defense view that most of the allegations in the lawsuit are barred by the state’s statute of imitations.
After the first witness, Mazars LLP partner Donald Bender, testified at length about Trump’s 2011 financial statement, Judge Engoron questioned whether it might have been a waste of his time because any fraud in the document would be beyond the legal time limit. Wallace promised to link it to a more recent loan agreement, but Trump took the judge’s remarks as an “outstanding” development for him.
Bender’s testimony was to resume Tuesday. The trial is expected to last into December.