NEW YORK — Donald Trump was back at his Manhattan Supreme Court fraud trial Thursday to see his legal team wind down their defense case.
The former president told reporters he’d returned after a weeks-long hiatus for NYU accounting professor Eli Bartov’s testimony, lauding him as “one of the great experts in the country.”
Bartov was highly critical of the New York attorney general’s case early into his testimony, describing it as “absurd” as Trump sat back in his chair with his head cocked, listening intently.
“My main finding is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any accounting fraud,” the professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business said, testifying that he saw wildly inaccurate figures in Trump’s financial records as honest mistakes, and that the statements central to the case “were not materially misstated.”
“There is no question that the value of President Trump is worth billions,” he said, later estimating Trump is worth $3 billion.
Trump’s expert witness, who boosted his main defense that the value of buildings is subjective, at one point combatively told a lawyer for the AG they “make up allegations” and should be “ashamed of yourself.” Bartov acknowledged his hourly rate was $1,350 and that he’d netted about $520,000 from Trump’s team when the AG’s team deposed him this summer.
Trump railed against state Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron and Attorney General Tish James on his way into the courtroom just before 10 a.m., protesting his innocence and decrying the case as a “witch hunt.”
“We did nothing wrong. There were no victims. The bank loved us. The bank testified they love us. We did absolutely nothing wrong. We never even defaulted. We never had a default letter sent to us. The bank said we were perfect customers. The bank didn’t even know why they were here,” Trump said.
“He ruled against me before the case even started,” Trump added of the judge. “He knew nothing and he ruled against me.”
In September, Engoron found Trump and his crew liable for committing repeated and persistent fraud over several years. Based on undisputed evidence, the ruling determined they routinely exaggerated the value of his assets and thus his net worth by as high as $2.2 billion in deals with banks and lenders to enrich themselves illegally.
The judge’s pretrial ruling ordered Trump and his codefendants stripped of certificates needed to run a business in New York. An appeals court on Thursday said their cancelation would remain on pause pending the outcome of his appeal, with the ex-president hailing the ruling as “very good.”
Engoron is expected to rule in writing on the AG’s remaining six claims — primarily relating to insurance fraud, falsifying records, and the conspiracies underlying various elements of the scheme — and how much Trump and his associates must pay back by January’s end. The AG is seeking to recover at least $300 million.
Trump railed against officials outside the courtroom throughout the day, telling reporters the “lunatic” AG had committed fraud and inaccurately claiming he’d won “90%” of the ongoing case on appeal.
Though Trump didn’t hold back in his criticisms of the judge — twirling his finger by his head to signify Engoron was crazy — he didn’t break the gag order barring him from commenting on the judge’s court staff.
Engoron issued the gag order on the second day of trial after learning of a disparaging and untrue Truth Social post targeting his chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield. He’s been fined $15,000 for violating it twice. The judge later expanded it to include Trump’s lawyers.
The judge and Greenfield have received hundreds of death threats and antisemitic hate mail since the trial started following Trump’s attacks, according to court officials.
The Republican front-runner for president, facing 91 felonies in four criminal matters and a slew of lawsuits, is expected to return to the witness stand on Monday as the next and final defense witness. After the AG presents a brief rebuttal case, Engoron is expected to adjourn proceedings for about a month and will hear closing arguments on Jan. 11.