Trump fraud trial live updates: Weisselberg says Trump signed off on financial statements

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

Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr., and 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 while lowering his tax burden. 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.

Oct 10, 3:37 PM EDT
Weisselberg says Trump signed off on financial statements

Donald Trump would approve his financial statements before they were finalized between 2011 and 2016, ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg testified.

Weisselberg said that Trump often had feedback about the notes sections of the statements, which contained more detailed descriptions of Trump’s properties.

“‘Don’t use the word beautiful. Use the word magnificent,"” Weisselberg offered as an example of the kind of feedback Trump would provide.

Earlier Tuesday, Weisselberg testified that he did not meet with Trump or attorney Michael Cohen to review the statements. Returning to the topic after the lunch break, Weisselberg described Trump’s final review of the document as a regular occurrence before he became president.

“Did you ever send it to the Mazars [accountants] … as a final version before Mr. Trump signed off on it?” state attorney Louis Solomon asked.

“Not that I can remember, no,” Weisselberg said.

Oct 10, 2:18 PM EDT
Ex-CFO suggested 30% ‘brand premium’ for golf course valuations

Ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg explained the Trump Organization’s process for valuing its marquee properties as a complicated, months-long process during which the firm’s controller, Jeffrey McConney, would reach out to appraisers and brokers to better determine their value.

“This took months to prepare. It was not a simple task,” Weisselberg said, adding that he reviewed McConney’s final product at a “30,000-foot level.”

But Weisselberg acknowledged that he often intervened in the process to push McConney in a certain direction.

In one example, Weisselberg testified that he suggested McConney add a 30% brand premium for seven of Trump’s golf courses — adding tens of millions of dollars in value without disclosing the reasoning.

“Was the 30% premium you directed Mr. McConney to add to the fixed assets disclosed in the statement of financial condition?” Solomon asked.

“No,” Weisselberg said.

During a later portion of his direct examination, Weisselberg testified he sent Trump Organization employee Patrick Birney — who took over handling Trump’s financial statements from McConney — a newspaper clipping about a nearby Palm Beach property in order to support the valuation of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.

“Patrick — hold for next year DJT f/s, Let’s see what it ends up selling for,” a handwritten note from Weisselberg on the clipping said.

Weisselberg acknowledged his hesitancy to use that property’s asking price to help value Mar-a-Lago.

“Anyone can ask anything for a dollar amount. Doesn’t mean it’s going to sell,” Weisselberg said.

Oct 10, 2:01 PM EDT
Ex-CFO acknowledges firm’s fundamental failures of responsibility

Ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg acknowledged under questioning that the Trump Organization failed to fulfill some of the basic promises detailed in letters between the firm and its external accountant, Mazars USA.

“Do you believe the Trump Organization fulfilled that fundamental responsibility?” state attorney Solomon asked Weisselberg regarding a 2017 letter from Mazars that outlined the Trump Organization’s responsibility to select the accounting principles used in financial statements.

“No,” Weisselberg responded.

Asked about a separate letter outlining the Trump Organization’s responsibility to comply with generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, Weisselberg initially suggested that the Trump Organization fully relied on Mazars to comply with the accounting standards.

“We relied on Mazars to understand GAAP,” Weisselberg said.

“You were relying on Mazars to make a representation back to Mazars?” Solomon said, prompting Weisselberg to reverse his statement.

When questioned about the seemingly boilerplate accounting obligations to which the Trump Organization agreed, Weisselberg appeared to struggle to articulate who at the Trump Organization fulfilled the basic responsibilities as outlined.

Oct 10, 1:21 PM EDT
Weisselberg denies discussing financial statements with Trump

After initially evading the state’s question, ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg denied that he ever met with Trump to discuss his financial statements.

“Did you ever meet with Donald Trump or Michael Cohen where there was discussion of the statement of financial condition before it was finalized?” state attorney Louis Solomon asked.

Weisselberg initially responded that he did not recall such a meeting happening, before answering more definitively.

“No. I don’t believe it happened,” Weisselberg said.

Judge Engoron, appearing skeptical of the answer, asked Weisselberg to confirm.

“Could it have happened, and you just don’t remember?” Engoron asked.

“I am saying it did not happen,” Weisselberg responded.

The attorney general’s opening statement for the case included a portion of the deposition of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who claimed that Trump met with him and Weisselberg to direct them to increase his net worth, in order “to be higher on the Forbes list” of billionaires.

“Allen and I were tasked with taking the assets, increasing each of those asset classes in order to accommodate that eight-billion-dollar number [Trump requested],” Cohen said in the deposition.

Oct 10, 11:55 AM EDT
Weisselberg concedes Trump’s triplex is smaller than valuation

Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg testified that Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower is 10,996 square feet — which is a third the size that Trump claimed on financial documents.

In October 1994, Trump signed a document that certified his penthouse triplex is 10,996 square feet, but his statements of financial condition for several years beginning in 2012 listed the apartment as 30,000 square feet.

An attorney with the New York attorney general’s office showed the page with Trump’s signature to Weisselberg, who appeared to struggle to explain the discrepancy.

“It was always in my mind a de minimis asset on the statement of financial condition,” Weisselberg said. “I never even thought about the apartment.”

Louis Solomon of the attorney general’s office confronted Weisselberg with emails from Forbes magazine seeking clarity about the apartment’s size, as well as a letter signed by Weisselberg certifying the 30,000 square foot figure to the Trump Organization’s then-accountant, Mazars USA.

Weisselberg offered a lengthy take on the discrepancy, prompting Judge Arthur Engoron to intercede.

“Your role is to answer the questions, not to give speeches. Please just answer the questions,” Engoron said.

“Forbes was right, the triplex was actually only 10,996, right?” Solomon asked.

“Right,” Weisselberg finally conceded.

“I’ve been through quite a bit the last two years,” Weisselberg said at one point during the morning’s questioning. The former CFO moved to Florida following three months in jail after he pleaded guilty last year to criminal fraud charges and subsequently testified against the Trump Organization.

Oct 10, 9:47 AM EDT
Weisselberg to be questioned about valuations

Ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg is expected to face questions this morning about his work valuing properties like Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower and Trump’s 40 Wall Street building, as well as the Trump Organization’s efforts to secure loans from banks and Weisselberg’s direct conversations with the former president.

Weisselberg is the second named defendant to testify in the ongoing civil trial.

Trump Organization controller and co-defendant Jeffrey McConney, who concluded his testimony on Friday, was deemed a hostile witness by Judge Arthur Engoron, giving the state more latitude in their questions.

Oct 10, 9:08 AM EDT
Ex-CFO Weisselberg last year pled guilty to tax fraud

Ex-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg’s expected testimony this morning comes six months after he was released from New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex after pleading guilty last year to 15 felony charges related to a long-running scheme to avoid $1.7 million in taxes while working for the Trump Organization.

As a condition of his plea deal, Weisselberg testified last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal trial of the Trump Organization itself.

“Are you embarrassed about what you did?” Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas asked Weisselberg during the criminal trial last November.

“More than you can imagine,” replied Weisselberg, who testified that Trump himself was unaware of his tax evasion scheme.

The Trump Organization was convicted and later paid a $1.6 million fine imposed by the judge overseeing the case.

Oct 10, 8:22 AM EDT
Ex-Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg expected to take stand

Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg is expected to testify when former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud resumes this morning.

A named defendant in the case alongside Trump and his adult sons, Weisselberg allegedly supervised and approved the inflated valuations in Trump’s financial statements at the center of the state’s case, according to prosecutors.

He’s also alleged to have personally met with the former president each year between 2011 and 2016 to review and get approval for the fraudulent financial statements.

“Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase — a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements,” New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote in her initial complaint.

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