Former President Donald Trump and his legal team are launching their defense this week in the civil fraud trial being held in New York that’s targeting him, his two sons and their entire business empire.
In taking control of the trial with their term, the defense will have the opportunity to try to set a narrative of all of Trump’s business dealings, as they try to prove to the sitting judge that he should not be responsible for paying the hundreds of millions of dollars that the New York Attorney General’s office believes he should have to fork over in financial penalties for defrauding the state.
That might be a tough hill to climb for Trump’s team, though, as Judge Arthur Engoron already found that the Trump Organization and many of its executives were liable for the fraud – before the official trial even began.
The judge made that decision based on his beliefs that Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, had already proved the crux of the case she’s bringing before she even presented any evidence at trial.
As a result, Trump had his business licenses stripped from him, and some of the iconic properties that he owns are now at risk.
Trump’s legal team did win a temporary victory, though, when an appeals court in the state put a pause on his business license cancellations until it takes up Trump’s case.
Last Wednesday, James’ office rested its case after calling many high-profile witnesses and providing a huge paper trail that led them to believe that Trump falsely deflated the value of his assets to pay lower taxes in some instances and then falsely inflated their value to obtain more favorable insurance coverage.
The crux of James’ case are the statements of financial condition for Trump and his company. Those documents ultimately detail how much the assets of the business are valued at.
These statements were given to insurers and other financial institutions to obtain loans that they used to close deals. James’ office has claimed that these financial statements are proof positive that Trump committed fraud.
In response, Trump’s legal team has said that the business is absolved of all wrongdoing because of a disclaimer clause that was put in those documents. That was done by Mazars USA, which was at the time serving as the accounting firm for Trump.
Media outlet The Hill has reported that the clause reads:
“Users of this financial statement should recognize that they might reach different conclusions about the financial condition of Donald J. Trump if they had access to a revised statement of financial condition without the above referenced exceptions to accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”
On Monday, Trump testified that the statement holds up “in any court, except maybe in this court,” and that it also “goes on forever.”
While on the witness stand, Trump responded to a state lawyer who was questioning him on it by saying:
“Therefore, you have no case.”