A New York court on Tuesday deflated a significant statute of limitations victory claimed by former President Donald Trump in the first hours of his civil business fraud trial. The majority of the case, according to Trump’s legal team, is barred by the time limit.
There was a bit of mystery as well on the second day.
At lunchtime, Trump and lawyers for both sides walked behind closed doors for an unspecified reason. During a lunch break, when journalists and others had already been ushered out of Judge Arthur Engoron’s Manhattan courtroom, this occurred.
Trump then withdrew a nasty social media post about Engoron’s law clerk without explanation. Earlier in Tuesday’s court session, Trump’s Truth Social platform released the statement.
Allison Greenfield, the judge’s principal law clerk, sits by his side and frequently talks with him throughout sessions.
With Trump in court for a second day, New York Attorney General Letitia James’ attorney questioned an accountant in an attempt to strengthen the state’s case that Trump and others at his company had complete control over the preparation of misleading and outright false financial statements at the heart of the lawsuit against them.
And Engoron clarified a remark made by the ex-president that he promoted as a significant win.
On Monday, Engoron hinted that testimony about Trump’s 2011 financial statement might go past the legal time limit for Attorney General James’ lawsuit. It claims that Trump and his companies routinely misrepresented about Trump’s wealth on financial documents to banks, insurers, and others.
The applicable statute of limitations precludes lawsuits relating to conduct prior to a date in 2014, and rump’s legal tTeam has argued that the time limit eliminates the majority of the case.
Engoron stated on Tuesday that “statutes of limitations bar claims, not evidence,” and that at this early point of the trial, he is willing to grant both sides some leeway in linking earlier material to claims in the complaint.
“I want to emphasize: This trial is not an opportunity to relitigate what I have already decided,” Engoron said. He ruled last week that all the claims were allowable under the statute of limitations.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for James’ office, went on to add that he was using the 2011 document to illustrate that Trump’s financial statements had been prepared in the same way for at least a decade, giving him and his firm the last say over the valuations that appeared.
Donald Bender, an accountant who worked on the financial accounts for years, testified that the numbers in the documents came from Trump’s company. According to Bender, each spreadsheet was labeled “PBC,” which stands for “prepared by client,” in large red characters.
Bender said that the Trump Organization failed to produce all papers required for the production of the statements in some years, despite stating in letters to the accounting firm that it had delivered all financial information.
“They were not giving all of the documents that we needed,” Bender testified, explaining that “there were certain appraisals out there for a number of years that we had never seen.”
During a court break, Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, stated that the trial was “going very well.” He reaffirmed important elements of his case, such as the fact that the financial accounts were not audited and that others “might reach different conclusions” about his financial status if they had more information.
“This case is a scam. It can’t be fraud when you’ve told institutions to do their own work,” Trump said Tuesday.
Following Monday’s occasionally explosive opening statements, Bender’s evidence on Tuesday was so sluggish that he exhaled twice on the stand.
Trump intends to testify later in the trial, but he is not required to go now. While complaining that he’d rather be on the campaign trail, the Republican former president and GOP front-runner for 2024 has utilized waiting cameras in a courthouse hallway as a microphone for political message. He believes that James, a Democrat, is using the legal system as a political hammer to stymie his current campaign.
When Engoron, a Democrat, ruled last week that Trump committed fraud by exaggerating the size of his penthouse at Trump Tower, claiming his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida was worth up to $739 million, and putting similar inflated valuations on office towers, golf courses, and other assets, James scored an early victory.
The non-jury trial will focus on the remaining six claims in the case and how much Trump may owe in penalties. James is requesting $250 million in damages and a prohibition on Trump doing business in New York. As punishment, the judge has already ordered that several of Trump’s businesses be disbanded.
Trump’s lawyers claimed the financial records were accurate depictions of the value of one-of-a-kind luxury properties made even more desirable by their relationship with Trump.
The trial is expected to last into December.