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Ban request, “witch hunt”: the main points of the 1st day of Trump’s fraud trial

Ban request, “witch hunt”: the main points of the 1st day of Trump’s fraud trial

Former President of the United States Donald Trump appeared this Monday (2) in a Manhattan court for the first day of trial in the civil case against him and the Trump Organizations for possible tax fraud. The businessman attacked the judge in the case and the New York Attorney General at every possible moment.

Trump’s visit turned the court into an extension of his election campaign, criticizing the four existing criminal charges against him, and now the civil case in question.

See also — Trump agrees to pay $200,000 bail in Georgia

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Last week, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Donald Trump and the other defendants are responsible for fraud.

Inside the courtroom, the former president’s lawyers also argued with the judge as opening statements began, a sign they are likely to take a combative approach. Engoron estimates that the trial will last until December.

Here’s what you should know from the first day of Trump’s trial.

Trump turns going to court into part of his campaign

Donald Trump’s arrival at the courthouse in downtown Manhattan this Monday morning turned the event into a spectacle of his own making.

Even though he was not obliged to attend, the former president took advantage of the opportunity to reinforce his presidential campaign.

The New York attorney general’s case is civil, not criminal, but it threatens her business in the city. The trip to court indicates that Trump sees the lawsuit with as much urgency as the other cases against him in other state and federal courts.

In front of the cameras and on his social network, the former president attacked New York Attorney General Letitia James for opening the case against him. He also attacked the judge for his decision last week, and sought to link them to the criminal charges filed by special prosecutor Jack Smith, even though the cases are unconnected.

“This has to do with electoral interference, pure and simple. They are trying to harm me, so I don’t do as well as I am in the elections”, said the businessman before entering the court.

As he left the courtroom for his lunch break, Trump turned to cameras in the hallway twice to protest what he had heard. He attacked the judge, calling him an “agent”, and stated that he should be expelled for ruling against him.

Asked why he appeared in court, Trump repeated a familiar refrain: “Because I want to watch this witch hunt myself.”

The appearance also brought him face to face with James, who was sitting in the courtroom. When he first entered the venue, Trump avoided eye contact with the New York attorney general, although he glanced in her direction as he left for lunch.

At the end of the day, the former US president complained about having been removed from the campaign this Monday – despite having gone there voluntarily and, of course, receiving press coverage.

“I spent all day sitting in court instead of being in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or many other places I could be,” he complained.

Attorney General calls for ban on Trump businesses in New York

The attorney general’s office made it clear this Monday that it plans to go all the way.

Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the district attorney, asked the judge during his opening statement to prohibit Trump — who rose to fame and power over 50 years with a real estate empire — from doing business in New York.

Wallace alleged that the businessman and the other defendants conspired to commit persistent and repeated fraud and that Trump’s accounting reports convinced banks to take hidden risks “worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“While it may be something to mask numbers for Forbes magazine, you can’t do that while conducting business in New York State,” Wallace said.

The opening statement indicated the risk the case poses to Trump and the Trump Organization, the former president’s business in the city where he built his name and image before launching the political campaign that took him to the White House in 2016.

Letitia James filed the $250 million lawsuit last September, alleging that Trump and the other defendants committed fraud by inflating assets in accounting reports to obtain better terms on commercial real estate loans and insurance policies.

Last week, Engoron ruled that those involved were responsible for “persistent and repeated” fraud.

Thus, Trump and his companies could be forced to pay high amounts in compensation for the profits they allegedly obtained through their fraudulent business practices.

In the trial starting this Monday (2), Engoron will consider how much the Trumps and their companies will have to pay, and whether they could be prohibited from engaging in commercial real estate transactions in New York or taking out loans from New York banks.

The attorney general’s office intends to prove six additional allegations at trial, including falsifying business records, issuing false accounting reports and insurance fraud.

Trump lawyers claim “this is what happens every day in this city”

With the former president looking on, Trump’s lawyers argued the case was flawed, highlighting that differences in valuations were just part of the commercial real estate business.

Christopher Kise, one of the former president’s representatives, argued that there was no intention to defraud and “there were no victims” in the case.

Kise talked about documents from Deutsche Bank that show the bank valued Trump’s net worth at $2 billion less than he did — but they still accepted the loan to Trump.

“They were anxious. This is what happens every day in this city”, he highlighted.

Another Trump lawyer, Alina Habba, also spoke during opening arguments, attacking the judge’s ruling last week that valued the Mar-a-Lago residence at $18 million. The property would be worth at least $1 billion, Habba said.

“Value is what someone is willing to pay. Trump properties are Mona Lisa properties,” she added. “This is not fraud, this is the real estate market”, she pointed out.

The judge said Monday that his decision did not specifically value Mar-a-Lago at $18 million, but was citing Palm Beach tax records.

Judge argues with Trump lawyers

After Alina Habba finished her opening statement, in which she attacked Attorney General Letitia James for campaigning to “get Trump,” Judge Arthur Engoron fired back against Trump’s lawyer.

The judge highlighted that the defense team had already tried to close the case alleging that James had presented it as a “witch hunt” against Trump.

However, the appeal had already been denied, Engoron said, and his decision was upheld by a New York appeals court.

“So Ms. James’ motivations are no longer in question in this case, are they?” Engoron asked.

The judge also sparred with Habba over accounting liability relief for Mazars, Trump’s former accounting firm. According to Engoron, the disclaimer essentially said: “We are believing in the Trump Organization.

“That’s how I read it,” the judge pointed out.

Habba denied this, arguing that the Trump Organization depended on Mazars and that “they are the accountants.” Trump closely watched the back and forth between Habba and Engoron.

Kise later argued that the problem with the judge issuing summary judgment is that “you didn’t hear the evidence.

“You owe it to the defendants to hear the evidence. We have to at least give these witnesses the opportunity to testify,” she stressed.

Kise and Engoron debated whether a valuation expert’s testimony at trial would be considered evidence.

“I intend to be very patient and liberal when listening to things”, pondered the judge to the lawyer.

The discussions indicated how the upcoming trial will be contested, especially as it is a case in which a judge, not a jury, will decide the outcome.

Limitation period for evidence will be an ongoing debate

Towards the end of Monday, Engoron questioned whether the lengthy witness statements about financial documents from 2011 were a “waste of time”, due to the statute of limitations applicable to the case limiting the facts to 2014.

The issue is one to watch in the future, as Trump and his lawyers say they may dismiss most of the case due to the statute of limitations.

The judge was responding to former Mazars accountant Donald Bender’s testimony about the 2011 financial documents, acknowledging that a New York appeals court had ruled that the statute of limitations only allowed allegations from 2014 onwards to be applied to the case. .

“I believe you can relate the 2011 documents to something that happened later, or this was all a waste of time,” Engoron highlighted to the attorney general’s lawyers.

The defense agreed with Engoron’s statement – ​​which led Trump to give a thumbs up.

The judge’s comment marked a small victory for Trump because the judge recognized the statute of limitations that had been ruled by the appeals court, although the judge also recognized the time limitation in his order last week.

At the same time, he allowed witnesses to testify about the 2011 financial documents on Monday, over the objection of Trump’s lawyers, as the attorney general’s office indicated it would link the testimony to allegations that fall within the prescription – although this did not happen on this first day of trial.

Bender will return for a second day of testimony this Tuesday (3).

Still, the judge’s comments prompted Trump to praise Engoron after he attacked him earlier in the day.

“The last five minutes were great because the judge essentially admitted that the statute of limitations, which we won in the court of appeals, is in effect. So about 80% of the case is over,” Trump said.

Most of the alleged fraud concerns transactions prior to 2014, but Engoron ruled last week that accounting reports filed after 2014 are still relevant regardless of when the original loan was transacted.

Monday’s comments about admissible evidence do not indicate he will change that decision.

Judgment will last a long time – and will be financially disruptive

Kicking off the trial on Monday morning, Engoron confirmed that he expects the trial to last more than two months – until December 22, the Friday before Christmas.

That analysis will also touch on financial issues, as the New York attorney general’s office and Trump’s lawyers debate accounting reports, accounting practices and property valuations.

Kevin Wallace’s opening statement to the attorney general referenced statements of financial status and played clips of testimony from Trump’s sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., while addressing “GAAP,” the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — standard accepted by US-based companies.

While Donald Trump and his children are expected to be called as witnesses in the trial, much of the analysis will focus on the accounting details at the heart of the attorney general’s case that now threatens Trump’s businesses.

*Lauren del Valle and Aaron Cooper from CNN contributed to this report

Source: CNN Brasil