Trump Reverses Course, Won’t Testify in New York Trial Again

Catherine Yang
By Catherine Yang
December 10, 2023Judiciary
Trump Reverses Course, Won’t Testify in New York Trial Again
Former President Donald Trump attends his trial in New York State Supreme Court in New York City on Dec. 7, 2023. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump stated on Sunday that he will no longer take the witness stand in the bench trial for a civil fraud case against him in New York.

“As everyone knows, I have very successfully and conclusively testified in the corrupt, Biden directed New York State Attorney General’s rigged trial against me,” he wrote. “World renowned experts, highly respected bank and insurance executives, real estate professionals as well as others, both honest and credible, have stated, clear and unequivocally, that I, and my very successful company, did nothing wrong!”

“Financial statements were conservative, liquid, and ‘extraordinary,'” he stated. “The only fraud committed was by the highly partisan and out of control judge and racist AG.”

Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued President Trump and other Trump Organization executives on seven claims related to fraud.

Since Nov. 13, the defense has been presenting its case, relying heavily on outside experts to refute the accusation of fraud, despite the fact that New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron had already issued a pretrial ruling finding President Trump liable for fraud. The trial is meant to deal with the penalties that he will need to pay, as well as state attorneys proving intent and materiality.

President Trump was meant to testify again on Monday, closing out the defense. Instead, the last expert witness in the case, NYU accounting professor Eli Bartov, will continue to testify through Tuesday.

“I have already testified to everything and have nothing more to say other than that this is a complete a total election interference (Biden Campaign!) witch hunt, that will do nothing but keep businesses out of New York, I will not be testifying on Monday,” he wrote.

Defense attorneys are expected to be mounting appeal efforts; an appellate court has already paused one of the penalties issued by Justice Engoron pending appeal—the dissolution of Trump Organization—and the Trump legal team has begun an Article 78 proceeding accusing the judge of unlawful behavior.

President Trump had already testified in November, giving lengthy, narrative answers about his properties and dealmaking when questioned by state prosecutors.

Justice Engoron told defense attorneys to “control” their client and limit his answers, escalating the issue when he said he would “draw every negative inference” if they didn’t do so. President Trump said he hoped that everyone watching could see how “unfair” the trial was, and accused the attorney general of having no case.

Defendants Testify

Several of the codefendants have testified for the defense already.

The defense began with testimony by Donald Trump Jr., an executive vice president with Trump Organization and defendant in the case. Mr. Trump Jr.’s brother Eric Trump, also an executive vice president at the family business, was scheduled to testify last week before defense attorneys announced that they were paring down their case.

Allen Weisselberg, the firm’s former chief financial officer, had also been called back on the stand to testify about an internal review process that occurred when President Trump took office.

“We were going through a company-wide cleanup process, making sure that since Mr. Trump was now president, everything was being done properly,” Mr. Weisselberg said, according to reports.

“[President Trump] didn’t authorize you to commit tax fraud did he?” he was asked.

“Of course, not,” Mr. Weisselberg said. He also detailed for the record a tax scheme that he had devised, and for which he had already been convicted of tax evasion, adding that it wasn’t something ordered by the firm.

Trump Organization Comptroller Jeffrey McConney also testified, becoming tearful at one point as he recounted his 35-year career in the company. He had retired in February, and testified that it was in large part because of the pressure of the prosecution.

“I just wanted to relax, and stop being accused of misrepresenting assets for the company that I loved working for,” Mr. McConney said, according to reports. “I feel proud of what I did. I think everything was justified. Numbers don’t represent fully what these assets are worth.”

Experts Say No Fraud Occurred

Several experts also testified that no fraud had occurred, raising multiple objections from state attorneys who argued that the judge had already ruled fraud did occur, and the issue was no longer relevant to the trial. The judge permitted their testimonies, which were limited to their area of expertise.

In the past few days of the defense, some of the experts called on the stand made huge claims.

Lawrence Moens, a broker for billionaires in Palm Beach, Florida, testified that he would value Mar-a-Lago for more than $1 billion.

Since Justice Engoron issued his Sept. 26 summary judgement, it has been widely reported that the attorney general and judge relied on county assessor numbers and valued Mar-a-Lago as low as $18 million, drawing ridicule from the real estate industry.

On the witness stand, Mr. Moens said that he believed Trump Organization undervalued Mar-a-Lago on its financial statements, and gave it an $1.2 billion estimate for 2021.

“It’s something breathtaking. It’s something amazing to see,” he said. “I’m on the front lines every day of selling properties, and I have a pretty good handle on what’s happening in the market.”

A great issue of contention had been whether the property could be valued as a private residence, which several real estate experts have said is possible to do when it comes to valuation. President Trump himself explained that the easement on the property designating it a club is something that could be negotiated, but that he got the better end of the deal in keeping it as a club of one member, where that member could also live on the property.

In a social media post on Sunday, President Trump claimed the attorney general valued Mar-a-Lago 50 to 100 times less than what it was worth “in order to illegally reduce my values and make a fake case against me.”

“The AG thugs do not want to acknowledge that I have paid almost $300 million in New York City and State taxes during the years in question,” he wrote.

“Importantly, I won at the appellate division, which effectively ended most of the case but the biased judge refused to accept their order,” he added, referring to a statute of limitations the appeals court set on the case.

The last expert for the defense, NYU accounting professor Eli Bartov, told the judge plainly that there was no fraud to be found and that the attorney general’s complaint had no merit.

“My main finding is there is no evidence whatsoever of any accounting fraud,” said Mr. Bartov, who’s an expert in financial reporting fraud and teaches the subject.

“The SFoCs over the years were not materially mistaken,” he said.

The statement prompted the judge to ask if he meant that the attorney general’s “complaint had no merit.”

“This is absolutely my opinion,” he said. “You read the complaint: the complaint has numerous allegations of valuations of GAAP [generally accepted accounting principles]. There is no specific reference to a provision of GAAP that was violated.”

“Some of them really bordered on absurd,” he added of the claims. Mr. Bartov said he had to run through “thousands of GAAP provisions” and “couldn’t find a single GAAP provision that was violated—I couldn’t find one.”

“It’s impossible to argue that Deutsche Bank or any other lender would make lending decisions based on SFoCs,” he said.

President Trump said Mr. Bartov’s testimony was “unassailable” and “has been so strong and irrefutable in his testimony, which will conclude on Tuesday.”

Prior to that, a former executive from Deutsche Bank, which the attorney general claims was defrauded, testified that the bank had courted President Trump’s business, and that the bank did their own analyses of his assets and issued a credit report before approving a loan.

Michael Washburn contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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