(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” to inflate Trump’s net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted “fraudulent valuations” for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump’s alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Nov 14, 9:40 AM EST
Defense to call first expert witness
Donald Trump’s defense team plans to call their first of several expert witnesses to the stand today.
Steven Witkoff, a New York-based real estate investor and developer, is set to testify about his expert opinion that the Trump National Doral golf course in Miami was undervalued in Trump’s financial statement, despite the attorney general’s claim to the contrary.
The expert report Witkoff prepared for the case also criticized the finding from the state’s expert regarding the value of Trump’s 40 Wall Street property.
During a 2018 roundtable on tax reform, Trump called Witkoff a “pal” who he inspired to enter the real estate industry.
“You know, people don’t realize Steve started out as a lawyer — a very good lawyer, a top lawyer in New York. And then he said, ‘I’m going to go into the real estate business because I can do this, too,” Trump said. “He saw me do it, and he said, ‘If Trump can do it, I guess I can do it, right?'”
Nov 14, 9:02 AM EST
James, Trump respond as defense begins its case
In a video statement posted to social media, New York Attorney General Letitia James said that the testimony of Donald Trump Jr. yesterday failed to refute any of her case against Donald Trump and his adult sons.
“After spending a full day walking through a marketing presentation to sell us all on the greatness of the Trump Organization, the defendants did not make a single point to refute the case we brought against them,” James said of Trump Jr., who led off the defense’s case.
Trump’s eldest son, an executive VP with the family firm, functionally served as a summary witness to explain the history and notable assets of the Trump Organization, repeatedly using words like “spectacular” and “incredible” to spell out the details of Trump’s properties.
James, meanwhile, drew the ire of Donald Trump for appearing to smile in court.
“A.G. Letitia James is smirking all day long from her seat in Court, as New York continues to set records in murder and other violent crimes, and businesses flee to other States,” Trump wrote on Truth Social this morning, despite murders in New York City being down nearly 10% this year, according to the NYPD.
Nov 13, 5:55 PM EST
Court adjourns for day after tax lawyer’s testimony
The defense wrapped up the first day of its case with testimony from Donald Trump’s former external tax lawyer, Sheri Dillon, who returned to the witness stand to clarify her actions related to conservation easements at Trump’s properties.
Dillon previously testified during a lengthy and combative portion of the state’s case.
“Welcome back. I feel like I am at a reunion — Trump trial reunion,” Judge Engoron joked when Dillon returned to the courtroom.
Dillon, explaining a potential gap in email communications about specific deals, testified that she often communicated with Eric Trump over the phone.
“If I picked up the phone and talked to him, I would know he knew what he needed to know,” Dillon testified.
She also said she advised Trump’s appraiser, David McArdle, that the company could add 40 additional residential units at Trump National Golf Club in New York’s Westchester County by filing a new offering plan, according to an email shown in court. The clarification challenges the New York attorney general’s allegation that a $101 million increase in the value of undeveloped land was based on an unfounded plan by Eric Trump to add units to the property.
During a short cross-examination, state attorney Louis Solomon attempted to challenge Dillon’s authority to provide such legal information to McArdle.
“Do you know if a sponsor has a right to have an offering plan accepted for filing merely because the development meets the requirements for zoning?” Solomon asked.
“No, I do not,” she responded.
Dillon concluded her testimony, and court then adjourned for the day.
Nov 13, 5:41 PM EST
Trump Jr. acknowledges positive rapport with judge
Speaking outside the courthouse following his testimony for the defense, Donald Trump Jr. told ABC News that he seems to have a positive relationship with Judge Engoron.
“Perhaps there’s a New York personality there, but no I think he understood,” Trump Jr. said when ABC News suggested he and the judge appeared to get along. “I can’t help myself even in this very serious situation. If you take yourself too seriously the world sort of sucks. You got to have a little bit of fun with it, so I did.”
His relationship with the judge appears to stand in contrast to that of his father, who has accused Engoron of bias and insulted him from the witness stand.
“We had some quips in the courtroom the first time I was here,” Trump Jr. said of Engoron. “Sort of gave me a fist bump on the way out. I guess I had a rather snappy response to something that was — I can’t even remember what it was right now. He said, ‘That was really funny.'”
Asked by ABC News whether Trump Jr. shared his father’s views about the judge being biased, the son demurred.
“Listen, I don’t even know how far the gag order applies, so I don’t need to do that and put myself — I’m in enough crosshairs, guys,” he said.
Nov 13, 4:56 PM EST
Trump Jr. says aunt’s death made for a ‘rough day’
Following the completion of his testimony, Donald Trump Jr. made the first family comments acknowledging the death of his aunt, Maryanne Trump Barry, calling it “a rough day.”
“Obviously, a little bit of a rough day, but I’ve still got to deal with this stuff. We’ve got to keep doing it. That’s the nature of all of this. But no, it’s a rough day for myself and my family,” Trump Jr. said of the news that former President Trump’s sister had passed away at 86.
Trump Jr. also slammed New York Attorney General Letitia James for bringing the civil fraud case despite what Trump Jr. said was “no actual person complaining other than the attorney general herself.”
“Hopefully, one day the people of this great city will realize what’s going on. They’ll realize the destructive practices here. They’ll realize just how insane that is. And they’ll be begging for guys like Donald Trump to come back to New York City to reshape the skyline as he’s done for decades,” Trump Jr. said.
He said he does not plan to return to court for the continuation of the defense’s case tomorrow.
Nov 13, 3:43 PM EST
Donald Trump Jr. concludes testimony
Donald Trump Jr. stepped off the witness stand after roughly three hours of testimony.
His own attorney, Clifford Robert, concluded his direct examination by asking Trump Jr. about the fate of the Trump Organization.
“I guess a lot of that depends on what happens next November,” Trump Jr said, speculating that the company might be “sued into oblivion.”
Assistant New York Attorney General Colleen Faherty cross-examined Trump Jr. for less than ten minutes about the deterioration of Trump’s assets, including financial problems at 40 Wall Street and Trump’s licensed hotel in Hawaii. Trump Jr. appeared unfamiliar with the 40 Wall Street issues and said he was happy with the Hilton’s deal to buy out the Trump Organization’s Hawaii hotel licensing deal.
Nov 13, 2:54 PM EST
Trump Jr. says golf course site was ‘old-school New York mob job’
Donald Trump Jr., in testimony for the defense, touted the work of the Trump Organization to convert a landfill in the Bronx, New York, into a “absolutely incredible” golf course.
“It was raw dirt. It had been that way for a long time,” Trump Jr. said of the original site of Trump Links Ferry Point near the Whitestone Bridge.
“People were supposedly trying to build a golf course for years,” Trump Jr. said about previous efforts to build the facility, describing it as an “old-school New York mob job” where people got paid to move dirt around but not build anything.
Trump Jr. said that once his father got involved in the project, the site was successfully transformed in a matter of months.
Nov 13, 1:42 PM EST
Trump Jr. to get new and improved sketch
When he was last in court, Donald Trump Jr. took a particular interest in his courtroom sketch.
“He said, ‘Make me look sexy,'” the sketch artist Jane Rosenberg told ABC News. By some accounts, the result was underwhelming.
Rosenberg has another opportunity to draw Trump Jr. with his return to court, and she thinks the new iteration is coming along well.
“I think they get better every time,” she told ABC News.
Earlier in his testimony, Trump Jr. joked about a photo of his brother Eric Trump.
When the slideshow Trump Jr. was narrating displayed a professional headshot of his brother, Trump Jr. took a job at his younger sibling.
“A lot of Photoshop,” Trump Jr. joked.
Nov 13, 1:12 PM EST
Trump Jr. assails judge’s finding on Mar-a-Lago
In presenting a slideshow chronicling the Trump Organization’s properties, Donald Trump Jr. highlighted many of their luxury features and iconic views — implicitly suggesting their value.
That’s particularly true of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, which Judge Engoron in a pretrial ruling determined was worth only a fraction of the amount claimed by Donald Trump, because Trump signed a deed that restricted its use to a social club, thereby limiting its resale value.
Describing how he took “umbrage” to the judge’s determination that Mar-a-Lago was worth between $18 and $28 million, Trump Jr. highlighted specific features to challenge that finding. Showing an aerial photo of the property, Trump Jr. said that a nearby home whose size was dwarfed by the social club has been on sale for $50 million.
“You couldn’t build that atrium for $18 million today,” Trump Jr. said while presenting a photo of the building’s historic atrium.
Nov 13, 12:53 PM EST
With glossy slides, Trump Jr. recounts firm’s story
Donald Trump’s testimony in the defense’s case has so far centered around a slide show being presented by the defense, entitled “The Trump Story,” that paints a timeline of Donald Trump’s real estate acquisitions. When state attorneys objected to the glossy presentation — which Trump Jr. acknowledged was created by his marketing team — the judge allowed the slides, and thus permitted Trump Jr. to testify unrestrained about the company’s properties.
“He’s an artist with real estate. He sees the things other people don’t,” Trump Jr. said at one point when describing his father.
As he narrates the slide show, Trump Jr.’s testimony resembles a lecture on real estate, sprinkled with details about his family’s properties — such as the individual stones used to construct the Seven Springs estate or the bank safes at 40 Wall Street, which he said once stored gold from the Federal Reserve.
“They’re actually spectacular … it’s truly a mechanical work of art,” Trump Jr. said of the safes.
Referencing broken down historic properties that the company has transformed back to their former glory, Trump Jr. called such properties the “canvas” for his his “father’s art.”
“He understands and has an incredible vision that other people don’t,” Trump Jr. said.
After a particular lengthy response, Trump Jr. referenced his father’s own tendency to speak in prolonged monologues, joking, “I got half the genes.”
Nov 13, 11:06 AM EST
Trump Jr. details history of Trump Organization
Testifying for the defense, former President Trump’s eldest son described his father as a real estate “visionary” who “sees the sexiness in a real estate project,” creating value for the family business that cannot be captured on paper.
Donald Trump Jr. began his testimony with a quip after Judge Engoron welcomed him back to the stand following his testimony earlier in the month.
“I’d say it’s good to be here, but the attorney general would probably sue me for perjury,” Trump Jr. joked.
In his testimony, Trump Jr. described the Trump Organization as “a large family business,” with Trump and his eldest children at the top and other executives handling many of the details.
“If there were numbers and things, I would rely on them to give me that,” Trump Jr. said.
He recounted the history of the Trump Organization, beginning with his great-grandfather who he said built hotels in the Yukon Territories of Canada. His grandfather, Fred Trump, “started working on job sites around Queens, learned the trades” and eventually “created an incredible portfolio, by the time of his passing, of rental apartments in Brooklyn and Queens.”
A state attorney jokingly objected that references to the 1800s were outside the statute of limitations — then more seriously objected to the history lesson’s relevance.
“I think it is relevant to get the historical perspective — I find it interesting,” Judge Engoron said in overruling the objection. “Let him go ahead and say how great the Trump Organization is.”
Trump Jr. obliged.
“My father learned a lot of the business from him, but had some flair and saw New York City and Manhattan as the ultimate frontier,” he said. Speaking of Trump Tower, he said, “I think it would have been one of the first, I think great, ultra-luxury real estate emerging in Manhattan.”
Nov 13, 10:20 AM EST
Donald Trump Jr. takes the stand for the defense
“Would you like to call your first witness, defense?” Judge Arthur Engoron asked to begin court this morning.
“The defense calls Donald Trump Jr. to the stand,” defense attorney Clifford Robert responded.
Like his last time on the witness stand when he was called by state attorneys, Trump Jr. appears comfortable on the stand, punctuating his testimony with lighthearted remarks.
Robert began his direct examination with some questions about Trump Jr. ‘s biography, starting with his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Was a bartender for about 18 months,” Trump Jr. said about his first job out of college.
“Did you enjoy that?” Robert asked.
“I did,” said Trump Jr., joking that he had a challenging conversation with his father when he began that job.
Nov 13, 9:45 AM EST
Trump Jr., arriving in court, met with chants of ‘crime family’
Donald Trump Jr. and his defense lawyers arrived at the New York State Supreme Courthouse this morning to be met with a small crowd of protestors chanting “crime family.”
Trump Jr. did not make a statement before entering the courthouse, but offered a brief response to a question about his expected testimony.
Asked what he plans on saying today on the stand, he replied, “We’ll see what I’m asked.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James arrived at court shortly after Trump Jr. and took a seat in the courtroom with her staff.
Nov 13, 9:06 AM EST
Donald Trump Jr. attends UFC event ahead of testimony
Donald Trump Jr. took in some ultimate fighting ahead of his scheduled return to the witness stand this morning.
Trump Jr. attended a UFC doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with his father, in addition to Tucker Carlson, Kid Rock, and UFC president Dana White.
“I legitimately can’t think of a better squad to roll with,” Trump Jr. posted on social media.
Earlier that day while speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, Donald Trump appeared to joke about appointing White to a position in a potential future administration.
“He’s a guy I’d like to make my Defense Chief. I wouldn’t call him my defense chief. I’d call him my ‘Offense Chief.’ He’d be my Offense Chief,” Trump said.
Nov 13, 8:32 AM EST
Defense to begin presenting its case
As Trump’s legal team prepares to begin presenting its case this morning, defense attorney Alina Habba says responsibility for the financial statements that the New York attorney general says are fraudulent lies with Trump’s external accounting firm.
Previewing the defense’s case during an appearance on Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, Habba also said the banks that loaned money to the Trump Organization were responsible for conducting their own due diligence regarding Trump’s financial statements.
The state rested its case last week in the sixth week of the trial. The defense has said they expect their case to wrap up by Dec. 15.
Habba also suggested that Donald Trump plans to file a motion seeking a mistrial.
While Habba declined to comment on alleged misconduct by Judge Arthur Engoron’s clerk — which she is prohibited from doing due to the limited gag order handed down by the judge — she said the issue would be addressed in their mistrial motion “very soon.”
“I actually can’t tell you why, because I am gagged. I can tell you that we will be filing papers to address all of those issues,” Habba said.
However, Habba downplayed the chance the motion would be favorably decided Engoron.
“The problem we have is the judge is the one who is going to make those decisions, and he has proven himself to be quite motivated by the other side,” Habba said.
Nov 11, 1:51 PM EST
Court administrator responds to Stefanik’s complaint
In response to Rep. Elise Stefanik’s letter of complaint against Judge Engoron that she filed Friday with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a spokesperson for New York State Office of Court Administration has issued a statement.
“Judge Engoron’s actions and rulings in this matter are all part of the public record and speak for themselves,” said Office of Court Administration communications director Al Baker. “It is inappropriate to comment further.”
Nov 10, 8:17 PM EST
Rep. Stefanik files complaint against Judge Engoron
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York has filed a judicial complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron.
The letter, addressed to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, largely concerns the judge’s rulings in the case and his public statements, and is unlikely to impact the proceedings of the trial.
“Judge Engoron’s bizarre and biased behavior is making New York’s judicial system a laughingstock,” Stefanik, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote.
The lengthy letter echoes some of Trump’s attacks on the trial, criticizing Engoron’s limited gag order in the case, the actions of his legal clerk, his summary judgment ruling, and his comments during Trump’s testimony this week.
“Simply put, Judge Engoron has displayed a clear judicial bias against the defendant throughout the case, breaking several rules in the New York Code of Judicial Conduct,” Stefanik wrote.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.