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.
- Defense expert says Mar-a-Lago was worth $1.2 billion
- Trump likely to attend trial Thursday, say sources
- Judge says he'll 'rigorously' enforce limited gag order
- Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
- Trump's disclaimer told bankers to 'beware,' expert says
- Trump distances himself from preparation of statements
- Trump's misrepresentations cost banks $168M, expert testifies
- Trump, after testifying, fined $10,000 for violating gag order
- Trump tax rep acknowledged much lower value for Mar-a-Lago
Defense expert quotes John Lennon, compares Trump to MLK
Prior to his brief cross-examination, real estate valuation expert Lawrence Moens quoted John Lennon's "Imagine" and compared Donald Trump to Martin Luther King Jr. at the conclusion of his direct testimony.
"You may say I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," Moens said, quoting the "Imagine" lyrics before comparing Trump to Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.
"He's a dreamer for sure. If you have a dream and are a great American, I don't think that's a bad thing," Moens said of Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago estate he praised as "something breathtaking" and "amazing to see."
Moens' cell phone went off during his testimony, and he briefly interrupted his direct examination to answer a call.
"I'll call you right back … love you," Moens said in a quiet tone as Judge Engoron watched in disbelief.
Moen apologized to the judge, explaining that the call was from his elderly father.
Court was adjourned for the day after Moens stepped off the witness stand.
Mar-a-Lago valuation expert is also Mar-a-Lago member
During a short cross-examination of the defense's real estate valuation expert, Lawrence Moens, state attorney Kevin Wallace attempted to highlight flaws in Moens' analysis that valued Mar-a-Lago at $1.2 billion in 2021.
Wallace noted that Moens' analysis added over $100 million in membership dues to the value of the property, while Trump's own statements of financial conduction didn't include the membership fees since they're refundable.
"Some get paid back, and some are nonrefundable," Moens said in response. "I don't know what their methodology is in those numbers."
Wallace also asked if Moens had a membership in the club he had been paid to value.
"Are you a member at the club?" Wallace asked.
"I am," Moens said, adding that he joined in 1995 or 1996. "I don't go too often. I don't like clubs," he said.
Moens described his process for valuing properties as comparable to a baker making a cake by taste, rather than a recipe. By his own admission, the process was not replicable or scientific.
"You're not running a process that is recreatable ... is that fair?" Wallace asked.
"That's fair," Moens said.
Like during his direct examination, Moens appeared confident and playful on the stand, even taking a job at the profession of a colleague mentioned in an email.
"I think he is still a liar -- I mean a lawyer," Moens said. "Sorry, I apologize, it was really low."
Eric Trump will not be called as defense witness
Defense attorney Clifford Robert said the defense team was able to "streamline" their case and cut Eric Trump from their witness list.
After being called to the stand by the state last month, Eric Trump had been scheduled to testify for the defense on Wednesday, but now he will not appear.
Trump lawyer Chris Kise also requested that Judge Engoron postpone Donald Trump's testimony until the New York Court of Appeals rules on Trump's appeal of the case's gag order.
"He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order," Kise said.
Engoron flatly denied the request to delay Trump's testimony, which is scheduled for Monday.
"Absolutely not. No way, no how. It's a nonstarter," Engoron said. "If he is going to testify, it'll be Monday, and that's that."
Defense expert says Mar-a-Lago was worth $1.2 billion
Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club was worth more than $1.2 billion in 2021 -- roughly double the value listed in Trump's statement of financial condition -- according to defense expert Lawrence Moens.
Describing Mar-a-Lago as a castle nestled on 17.6 acres of waterfront property, Moens said he determined the value by considering nearby properties and adding the total value of the club's 500 memberships, which in 2021 cost $350,000 each.
Between 2011 and 2021, Moens' analysis found that Trump undervalued Mar-a-Lago in his statements of financial condition -- but his analysis appeared to be based on Trump being able to sell the property to an individual to use it as a private residence, which the New York attorney general says Trump is prohibited from doing based on a 2002 deed he signed that would "forever extinguish their right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use."
Judge Engoron only qualified Moens as an expert on the value of residential real estate.
Moens spoke with confidence about his ability to value real estate in Palm Beach, saying that he has sold billions of dollars of real estate since his first sale as a broker in 1982. Asked if any broker has sold more Palm Beach real estate than he has, Moens replied, "They don't exist."
"I am on the front lines everyday of selling properties, and I have a pretty good handle of what is going on currently in the market," Moens said. He later added, "My numbers are usually right."
Moens also put together a seven-minute promotional video about Mar-a-Lago, which was played during his testimony. Set to relaxing music, the video included high-resolution drone shots and dramatic panning shots of the property's amenities. After the video played, Moens highlighted details such as hand-carved stones, gold decorations that cost millions to construct, and other details that required years of work from tradesmen.
"I invited the attorney general's office to come see it anytime. The offer still stands," Moens said. "I will make sure he is not there when you come," he said of Trump.
Engoron appeared attentive to Moen's testimony -- but once Moens left the courtroom, he indicated that he wasn't as concerned about Mar-a-Lago's specific value as he was about whether it was misrepresented.
"I see this case about the documents -- whether the defendants used false documents when transacting business," Engoron said. "I am not trying to figure out what the value is ... I don't necessarily consider it relevant."