Former President Donald Trump found himself in a precarious situation during a recent civil fraud trial as he appeared to inadvertently undermine his own defense by admitting his involvement in the preparation of potentially fraudulent financial documents.
Trump, who was in court for a trial to determine potential penalties for his business empire, conceded that, “on occasion,” he would “have some suggestions” regarding the valuation of his property holdings, arguing that the estimates provided were at times “too high.”
The Trump Organization faces allegations of falsely inflating property asset values and Trump’s own net worth.
The former president’s legal team has previously argued that property valuations, including of his penthouse suite in Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago resort, were carried out by contracted accountants. However, various witnesses, including a former accountant, have accused Trump’s company of providing fraudulent property value estimates, purportedly to secure lower loan rates and insurance premiums.
When questioned about the Trump Organization’s annual reports in a Manhattan courtroom, Trump acknowledged his involvement, stating, “I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions.” He further revealed that he had, on occasion, asked for alterations in property values because he felt they were too high.
In response to another question, Trump mistakenly claimed that he was not involved in preparing the 2021 financial statement because he was busy at the White House dealing with international matters. After being corrected that he was no longer president in 2021, he acknowledged the fact.
During the testimony, Trump also asserted that the net worth his company submitted did not consider the value of his personal brand, and he suggested that banks paid little attention to the valuations because they were aware that they could be inaccurate.
He maintained that the estimates were not as crucial as portrayed and implied that everyone in the Trump Organization was responsible for preventing fraud.
The trial, overseen by Judge Arthur Engoron without a jury, has already ruled that the financial statements were fraudulent. It aims to determine any penalties and whether the purpose of the fraud was to secure better rates from banks and insurers.
Trump and Judge Engoron clashed publicly during the trial, with Trump describing it as “unfair” and “election interference.” Letitia James, the New York attorney general, pre-empted his political statements by emphasizing that facts and numbers would be the crucial elements in the case.
The civil case could result in a substantial fine, as high as $250 million, and the revocation of Trump’s business license in New York, where several of his enterprises, including Trump Tower, are based. Trump faces multiple legal cases following his presidency, including criminal charges in Georgia, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
Despite the ongoing legal challenges, Trump remains the leading contender in the Republican primary race, and he is scheduled to hold a political rally in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.