A Manhattan judge presiding over New York Attorney General Tish James’ civil case against Donald Trump exasperatedly banged his fists on the bench during marathon arguments Friday, with the looming fraud trial hanging in the balance.
During a day-long courtroom showdown, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron heard cross-motions from both sides requesting he issue rulings that could make or break James’ $250 million case against the former president, set for trial Oct. 2.
James’ lawyers have asked Engoron to rule that Trump, his family real estate business, his sons, Eric and Don Jr., and various Trump Organization executives vastly exaggerated company asset values for a decade and repeatedly used the fake numbers in business transactions.
The AG says undisputed evidence shows Trump overvalued his assets by as high as $3.6 billion annually between 2011 and 2021 to score more favorable loans and insurance terms and mushroom his net worth.
Her suit also lays out how Trump tripled the value of his triplex apartment at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave — giving it a $327 million price tag when the city’s most expensive apartment, at that time, had sold for $100 million.
If James persuades Engoron to determine before the trial that Trump overvalued his assets, the trial could be dramatically shortened.
But Trump’s team said the judge should toss the entire case — arguing that an appeals court ruling in June finding claims against Ivanka Trump were time-barred should mandate the dismissal of the AG’s seven causes of action. Ivanka Trump is the former president’s daughter.
Trump has complained to Manhattan appeals court judges that Engoron and James have ignored an appellate ruling that got Ivanka off the hook and requested that the trial be pushed back.
James says Trump’s complaint to the judges is a “brazen and meritless” attempt to undermine Engoron and delay the case.
Trump’s lawyer, Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, also argues that valuation disparities such as those cited in James’ lawsuit are standard in New York business deals.
Kise said the AG wants to try Trump for carrying out successful deals, and argued his alleged offenses were merely evidence of his “genius.”
“This is why billionaires are billionaires,” Kise said.
“You could get fifty different appraisers,” he argued. “They’re all going to give you different opinions … That’s the nature of this business.”
Engoron didn’t sound convinced.
“You cannot make false statements and use them in business. That’s what this statute prohibits,” Engoron said, raising his voice and banging his fists on the bench.
At another point in the hearing, the AG’s lawyers said Trump and his co-defendants were living in an alternate universe.
“In [their] world, there’s no objective truth,” said Andrew Amer, a lawyer for James. “Defendants have clearly stepped through the looking glass.”
Engoron last month estimated the trial could take three months. He said he would issue a decision Tuesday on the pretrial motions as well as on a request from James to issue sanctions against Trump’s lawyers for filing already-rejected legal arguments.
Besides seeking civil damages, James hopes the courts will bar the Trumps from serving as the head of any New York-licensed businesses.
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