The New York trial judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial wrote a scathing denial of the former president’s latest attempt to toss the state attorney general’s case against him — potentially a preview of a tough outcome for Trump as the trial process winds down.
Judge Arthur Engoron slammed Trump’s accounting experts and rejected key points of the defense in an order Monday denying a motion for a directed verdict filed by Trump’s attorneys after trial testimony ended last week.
It would be a “glaring flaw” to assume testimony from Trump accounting experts Eli Bartov and Jason Flemmons are true and accurate, the judge wrote.
The case record proves there are many material misstatements on Trump’s personal financial statements, according to Engoron.
“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 wrote. “By doggedly attempting to justify every misstatement, Professor Bartov lost all credibility.”
Engoron added: “Defendants also trot out two of their standard canards, that valuations are subjective and that the law only penalizes ‘material’ deviations. These both fall into the category of ‘Let no one be fooled.’”
A valuation can be based on different criteria and analyzed different ways, the judge said, “But a lie is still a lie.”
Trump attorney Chris Kise called Engoron’s order “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.”
“Based on the decision, it appears the Attorney General’s burden of proof does not matter, the testimony from the involved bankers does not matter, application of governing accounting standards does not matter, the express language of the financial statements does not matter, and the ruling from the First Department does not matter. All that seems to matter is arriving at a predetermined destination,” Kise said in a statement.
The judge on Monday also knocked a defense argument frequently touted by Trump that disclaimers on his financial statements protect him from liability.
“They are not disclaimers at all, they are not defendants’ statements, and they certainly do not shield defendants from liability; if anything, they expose defendants to liability,” he wrote.
Engoron also said he found the Attorney General’s expert on disgorgement credible and said that the banks that lent Trump money were injured despite defense claims that the bank’s loved Trump’s business.
“If you pay a lower interest rate on a loan by overstating the value of any of your assets, thus lowering the perceived risk to the lender, your gains are ill-gotten,” Engoron said. “That the instant lenders made millions of dollars and were happy with the transactions does not mean that they were not damaged by lending at lower interest rates than they otherwise would have.”
The judge has already ruled that Trump, his adult sons and their businesses were liable for persistent and repeated fraud in a summary judgment opinion before the trial began. He also ordered the dissolution of Trump’s business certificates. (Trump has appealed the decision.) Engoron will determine how much the Trumps and their company must pay and the fate of their business in New York.
With witness testimony concluded, the attorney general’s office and Trump’s lawyers have until January 5 to file briefs summarizing their positions. Oral arguments are scheduled for January 11.
Engoron is expected to issue his ruling soon after on how much in disgorgement, or ill-gotten gains, Trump will need to pay based on the judge’s earlier ruling that the financial statements were fraudulent.
He is weighing six other causes of action, including conspiracy, issuing false financial statements, falsifying business records, and insurance fraud. The attorney general’s office is seeking more than $250 million and to ban Trump and his two adult sons from doing business in New York.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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