Former US President Donald Trump

Donald Trump denied instant win he sought in New York civil fraud trial

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The New York judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial denied the former president’s request for an immediate verdict in his favor, criticizing his defense and suggesting his star witness was motivated by money.

Trump made the request last week, arguing New York Attorney General Letitia James, who sued last year, failed during an 11-week trial to present evidence that the former president inflated his assets by as much as $3.6 billion a year to get better terms on loans from Deutsche Bank AG and other lenders.

Justice Arthur Engoron on Monday disagreed, saying that Trump was ignoring significant evidence of wrongdoing and rehashing arguments that failed even before the trial started. The judge saved his harshest language for Trump’s most outspoken expert witness, accounting professor Eli Bartov, who testified last week that Trump’s financial statements were accurate and fair.

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Donald Trump

Bartov “is a tenured professor, but all that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say,” Engoron said in his ruling. The New York University professor was paid more than $1,300 an hour for his work on the case, totaling at least $877,500.

The decision keeps closing arguments on track for Jan. 11, after which Engoron will issue a verdict without a jury. The trial is one of six Trump is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House in the 2024 election, including four criminal cases. He denies wrongdoing in all of them, claiming he’s the target of the “single biggest witch hunt of all time.”

“The ruling today represents a complete failure to address the legal elements of the claims to be decided and a rejection of the real facts from the real participants in the real world,” Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise said in a statement.

‘Still a Lie’

Crucially, Engoron criticized Trump’s argument that his inflated net wealth could be explained away by the theory that property valuations are subjective, saying in his ruling that “a lie is still a lie.”

“Valuing occupied residences as if vacant, valuing restricted land as if unrestricted, valuing an apartment as if it were triple its actual size, valuing property many times the amount of concealed appraisals, valuing planned buildings as if completed and ready to rent, valuing golf courses with brand premium while claiming not to, and valuing restricted funds as cash, are not subjective differences of opinion, they are misstatements at best and fraud at worst,” the judge wrote.

Hours before Engoron issued his decision, James’s office filed a letter with the court calling Trump’s motion “logically impossible” because extensive evidence of fraud was presented even before the trial started.

“The motion, as with many of the defendants’ courtroom antics and maneuvers during the course of this trial, is nothing more than a political stunt designed to provide Mr. Trump, his co-defendants and their counsel with sound bites for press conferences, Truth Social posts and cable news,” the AG’s office said.

Trump and his co-defendants, including his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, argued in their motion last week that none of the witnesses affiliated with Trump’s lenders testified that they had been defrauded by the former president.

They also argued there was no evidence showing the inflated statements were material to any bank decision.

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Engoron found Trump and his sons liable for fraud before the trial started, resolving the biggest claim in the case. The trial centered on six remaining claims as well as penalties, including as much as $250 million in damages.

The case is New York v. Trump, 452564/2022, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

Source: Bloomberg

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