Donald Trump attacked New York’s attorney general and the judge overseeing his civil fraud trial as it began on Monday, October 2, with prosecutors accusing the former president of generating more than $100 million by lying about the value of his real estate empire.
Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.
Trump told reporters before the trial began that the case was a “scam,” a “sham” and a political vendetta by James, and during a lunch break called the Democrat “a corrupt person, a terrible person. Driving people out of New York.”
Blasting the judge, Arthur Engoron, Trump called him a partisan Democrat who is using the case to interfere with the 2024 presidential election, where Trump holds a big lead for the Republican nomination.
“This is a judge that should be disbarred,” Trump told reporters. “This is a judge that should be out of office.”
Trump’s election campaign used the start of the trial for fundraising, saying he was defending his family and reputation from New York Democrats.
The case involves accusations by the attorney general that Trump inflated his assets and his own net worth from 2011 to 2021 to obtain favorable bank loans and lower insurance premiums.
James accused Trump of materially overvaluing assets including his Trump Tower penthouse apartment in Manhattan, his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and various office towers and golf clubs, and inflated his own fortune by as much as $2.2 billion.
“This isn’t business as usual, and this isn’t how sophisticated parties deal with each other,” Kevin Wallace, a lawyer from James’ office, said in his opening statement. .
“These are not victimless crimes.”
Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, countered in his opening statement that Trump’s financials were entirely legal.
“He has made a fortune literally being right about real estate investments,” Kise said.
“There was no intent to defraud, there was no illegality, there was no default, there was no breach, there was no reliance from the banks, there were no unjust profits, and there were no victims.”
Alina Habba, another Trump lawyer, told Engoron that Trump’s assets were “Mona Lisa properties” that could fetch premium prices if Trump sold them.
As Trump entered the court, he called the case “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.”
Judge Engoron is hearing evidence without a jury.
Last week, the judge found Trump, his adult sons and 10 of his companies liable for fraud, describing in scathing terms how the defendants made up valuations.
He said these included valuing the Trump Tower apartment as if it were three times its actual size and worth $327 million, and estimating that Mar-a-Lago was worth up to $739 million though its assessed value was no more than $28 million.
The judge canceled business certificates for companies controlling pillars of Trump’s empire, and said he would appoint receivers to oversee their dissolution.
The trial is scheduled to run through early December.
Trump, the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged also faces several other legal challenges.
He has been criminally charged in Washington over his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 presidential election, in Georgia over moves to reverse election results there, in Florida over his handling of classified documents upon leaving office, and in New York over hush money payments to a porn star.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all cases.