New York, US, Oct 2 (EFE).- As he entered the New York courtroom on Monday, Trump repeated his claim to a crowd of reporters that the case is a “sham” designed to interfere with his 2024 election bid, even though the investigation into these allegations was opened over four years ago, when the Republican was still in office.
Trump voluntarily went to the New York Supreme Court. While he remained stoic in the room, he used the presence of journalists at his entrances and exits to describe the process as a “witch hunt” and attack Democrats, prosecutor Letitia James, and judge Arthur Engoron.
“This is a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time,” Trump said, adding that his “financial statements are phenomenal.”
The case, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accuses the former US president, real estate mogul, and his company, the Trump Organization, of misrepresenting his wealth by hundreds of millions of dollars to defraud banks and insurers.
James, a Democrat who was also present at the New York State Supreme Court, told reporters, “no matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you have, no one is above the law.”
The Republican favorite for the White House, whose electoral path may be complicated by the legal cases he faces in the coming months – although polls do not indicate that they are diminishing his popularity – was accompanied on the bench by his son Eric and a team of lawyers, to whom he listened attentively in silence, according to local media.
The trial is expected to last until December 22 to resolve six charges related to illegalities in the company’s practices: falsification of documents, issuance of false financial data, and insurance fraud, since the main fraud charge was summarily resolved against Trump Organization last week.
Fraud or Real Estate Mona Lisas?
Prosecutors said Trump, his two eldest sons, and two associates knew about or participated in inflating the Trump Organization’s assets in its financial statements to obtain bank loans and insurance benefits. One year, the figure was inflated by $2.2 billion.
Much is at stake for the former president, especially his source of income in New York: the judge has revoked his operating licenses.
Prosecutors also asked on Monday that he be banned from doing business, and damages, which could amount to $250 million, have yet to be determined.
Trump’s defense has focused on qualifying the allegations and questioning the evaluation of the evidence – they assure that asset valuations are subjective and were described as such – and the outcome of the transactions: the banks recovered the borrowed money and made a profit.
Trump’s holdings are “Mona Lisa properties” that can command top dollar, said attorney Alina Habba.
“This is not fraud. That is real estate,” she said, accusing the attorney general’s office of “setting a very dangerous precedent for all business owners in New York state.”
However, assets such as the Mar-a-Lago mansion, which the judge valued at 18 million and a billion in Trump’s declaration.
“This has to do with election interference, plain and simple,” Trump said. “They’re trying to damage me, so I don’t do as well as I’m doing in the election.”
The former president assured that, describing his financial statements as “phenomenal” and claiming that “no bank was affected, no bank was hurt.”
It is unclear if Trump will also appear in court on Tuesday. Still, he is on both parties’ witness lists, which include more than a hundred people, many of them current or former employees of the Trump Organization.
On Monday, the prosecution called its first witness, Donald Bender, an accountant who had previously been called in the tax evasion trial against the Trump Organization, in which Allen Weisselberg, the former CFO and one of the defendants in the case, was convicted.