As former President Donald Trump’s fraud trial in New York City entered its second week, his defense team attempted to argue that the exaggerated size of his Manhattan penthouse on financial documents was a minor mistake. A question could be asked what else Trump might have exaggerated?
On Tuesday, the former president’s longtime finance chief testified that it was simply an error, even as he acknowledged the apartment’s accepted size in a 1994 document was 10,996 square feet – significantly smaller by nearly a third of the bloated 30,000 square feet that Trump is alleged to have falsely claimed for years on financial statements.
Those documents were subsequently provided to banks, insurers and others that were used to make deals and secure loans.
“I never even thought about the apartment,” Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, testified in Manhattan Supreme Court during the proceedings over New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million fraud lawsuit brought against the former president.
“It was not something that was that important to me when looking at a $6 billion, $5 billion net worth,” Weisselberg added.
However, James has claimed in her case against Trump that the overstated size of the apartment also padded the value by as much as $100 to $200 million.
The allegation is one example the AG claims was part of a decade-long pattern of pumping up the value of Trump assets on yearly Statements of Financial Condition. In addition to securing better loan and insurance terms, it also reportedly enabled Trump to climb Forbes’ list of billionaires.
Weisselberg, who is expected to return to the witness stand on Wednesday, said repeatedly that he couldn’t actually remember whether he discussed the financial statements with Trump while they were being finalized.
Weisselberg was a key witness at the Manhattan criminal trial against the Trump Organization after he agreed to turn on his longtime former employer as part of a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to tax fraud for skirting income tax by failing to report his full compensation for 15 years. He was released from jail in April.
That trial ended with a guilty verdict and a $1.6 million fine against Trump’s real estate empire in January.
Not Beautiful But Magnificent
The former CFO further testified this week that he reviewed drafts “from a 30,000-foot level” but only paid special attention to something “very important” to Trump: the descriptions of his properties.
“It was a little bit of a marketing piece for banks to read about our properties, how well they’re taken care of, that they’re first-class properties,” Weisselberg explained and added that Trump scrutinized the language used in such descriptions very closely. “He might say, ‘Don’t use the word ‘beautiful’ — use the word ‘magnificent,’ or something like that.”
Weisselberg testified on Tuesday that he only learned of the Trump Tower penthouse size discrepancy after a Forbes magazine reporter pointed it out to him in 2016. The former CFO said he initially disputed the magazine’s findings but said he couldn’t recall whether he directed anyone to look into the matter.
In 2017, a Forbes expose found that Trump had acquired the triplex apartment – which included sections of floors 66 to 68 – when the building opened in 1983. At the time it was 6,096 square feet, and a decade later was expanded after he merged two additional neighboring apartments.
“The end result is 10,996 square feet of prime Manhattan real estate—a massive residence, no doubt, but much smaller than what Trump claims to own. No records filed with the city indicate that he has added or shed square footage in the years since,” the magazine noted.
Forbes also reported earlier this year that its reporters had been scrutinizing various aspects of Trump properties for years, and its latest look at Trump Tower actually uncovered three “new pieces of potential evidence,” including that property records showed the real estate mogul had been “lying” about the financial performance of the building since it first opened in 1983; and that Trump further lied about the square footage of the office and retail base of the property, which was in addition to his exaggeration of the size of the penthouse.
The financial magazine claimed, “Portions of a 2015 audio recording, released here for the first time, prove that Trump was personally involved in the efforts to lie about the value of Trump Tower’s commercial space.”
Fall of the House of Trump?
Trump now faces losing all of his New York properties, including Trump Tower. In a pretrial ruling last month, Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump, Weisselberg, and other defendants committed years of fraud by exaggerating the value of Trump’s assets and net worth on his financial statements, the Associated Press reported, and as punishment, Engoron had ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies. That could put the future oversight of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in doubt.
Yet, even if Trump loses his properties, he could see a win.
As previously reported, Trump has claimed his legal troubles are part of a witch hunt, and his supporters have largely rallied around him. He might lose Trump Tower, but could win the White House – and for Trump that might be a fair trade.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.