Trump fraud trial live blog: Defense focusing on value of Mar-a-Lago

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(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.

Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” to inflate Trump’s net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted “fraudulent valuations” for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump’s alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 05, 9:36 AM EST
Defense focusing on value of Mar-a-Lago

Donald Trump’s lawyers plan to call two experts, Lawrence Moens and John Shubin, to testify on Trump’s valuation of his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida.

Moens is a well-known real estate broker in Palm Beach, and Shubin is an expert on deeds and land restrictions.

The value of the property has been bitterly contested by Trump’s lawyers since the start of the trial, after Judge Arthur Engoron, in his pretrial partial summary judgment determined that Trump overvalued the property by at least 2,300%. When Trump testified in the trial in November, he repeatedly lashed out at Engoron for what he called a “crazy” assessment of the property.

“He said in his statement that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million and it’s worth 50 times to 100 times more than that, and everybody knows it. And everybody is watching this case. He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me,” Trump said on the stand.

According to evidence shown at trial, Trump agreed in a 2002 deed to “forever extinguish [his] right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use.” While Trump Organization executives were aware of the limited use of the property, they allegedly valued the property as a residence in Trump’s financial statements while treating it as a social club for tax purposes, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In Trump’s statements of financial condition, he valued the property between $426 million and $612 million, despite a local tax assessor appraising the market value of the property between $18 and $27 million. Engoron, in his summary judgment ruling, wrote that James had proven that Trump was liable for a false valuation of the property.

Trump has repeatedly argued that Engoron misunderstood the purpose of a tax assessment, going as far as to call Engoron’s finding “fraud.”

“Are you paying taxes on an $18 million valuation of Mar-a-Lago or $1.5 billion?” state attorney Kevin Wallace asked Trump during his direct examination.

“You know that assessments are totally different from the valuation of property,” Trump responded.

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