Trump fraud trial live updates: AG’s case sets ‘dangerous precedent,’ defense says

(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 is in the courtroom for the first day of the trial, in which he, 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.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have described him as a “master of finding value where others do not,” arguing that Trump’s alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.

Top headlines:
-AG’s case sets ‘dangerous precedent,’ defense says
-Defendants were ‘lying year after year,’ prosecutors say
-Trump calls trial ‘political witch hunt’
-Judge has already found that Trump overvalued his assets

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

Oct 02, 1:19 PM EDT
Trump attorney says sons made no misrepresentations

An attorney for Donald Trump’s adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., added a brief opening statement of his own, defending his clients from accusations of wrongdoing.

“There was never a material misrepresentation made by Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr.,” said Clifford Robert, the attorney for Trump’s adult sons, who help run the Trump Organization.

Robert said he disagrees “with just about everything” the state’s prosecutor said in his opening remarks, and took aim at the state’s star witness.

“Their major linchpin is Michael Cohen, a guy who lies to everyone,” Robert said of the former Trump attorney.

Lucien Bruggeman

Oct 02, 1:10 PM EDT
AG’s case sets ‘dangerous precedent,’ defense says

Attorney General Letitia James “is setting a very dangerous precedent for any business in the state of New York,” warned Trump attorney Alina Habba in her opening statement.

Habba told the court she hadn’t planned to make opening remarks, but that she felt moved to speak after hearing the state present its own opening statement. Habba accused the attorney general of targeting Trump before taking office, claiming the investigation and lawsuit were personal in nature.

“We are attacking a sitting president and two of his children and his employees for a statement of financial condition which is frankly worth less than what they are worth,” Habba said.

Habba reiterated many of the points made earlier by co-counsel Christopher Kise, highlighting the fact that “these lenders made money,” and arguing that “real estate is malleable — the values change.”

After Habba concluded her remarks, Judge Engeron engaged her in a series of follow-up questions, asking about her claim that the property appraisals at issue were “undervalued” by prosecutors.

Habba replied that “the Trump brand is worth something.”

Oct 02, 12:03 PM EDT
‘The attorney general has no case,’ defense counsel says

Former President Trump’s defense counsel will present a “very different picture of the evidence” than the prosecution alleges, and will demonstrate that “there are many ways to value assets,” according to opening remarks from Christopher Kise, Trump’s lead attorney.

“We think the evidence is going to establish … President Trump has made billions of dollars building one of the most successful real estate empires in the world,” Kise said, reiterating sentiments he conveyed in pretrial motions.

Kise offered a glimpse into the former president’s defense, including plans to present testimony from a New York University professor who will explain that “there is no one generally accepted procedure to determine the estimated current value” of a property.

Other defense witnesses, including four Deutsche Bank officers who were involved in approving Trump’s loans, will explain how they were able to craft their own independent risk analyses meant to mitigate the claims of fraud that are core to the state’s case.

“Anyone committing fraud does not tell the other side, ‘Please do your own analysis,"” Kise said regarding Trump’s instructions to lenders.

Kise also previewed plans to undermine the state’s key witness, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who Kise said has “lied to everyone and anyone he has come in contact with.”

Kise reiterated the defense’s claim that Trump did not commit fraud and that there were no victims of his alleged conduct.

“The attorney general has no case,” Kise said.

Oct 02, 11:28 AM EDT
Defendants were ‘lying year after year,’ prosecutors say

Prosecutors intend to prove in the coming months that “each defendant engaged in repeated, persistent, illegal acts in conduct of business,” according to the opening statement from Kevin Wallace of the attorney general’s office.

Referring to Judge Engoron’s partial summary judgment last week, Wallace said that “the people have already proven” that former President Trump used “false, misleading” statements that were “repeatedly [and] persistently used in the conduct of business.”

But prosecutors will further demonstrate that Trump and his co-defendants knew those statements were false and continued to peddle them anyway in furtherance of their alleged scheme, Wallace told the judge.

“The defendants were lying year after year,” he said.

Wallace played clips of video depositions to punctuate his remarks, including testimony from Trump himself, as well as Eric Trump and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen — whose congressional testimony years ago precipitated the state’s investigation and some of the key allegations underpinning their case.

“The goal was to use each of [Trump’s] assets and increase its value in order to get to the end result number,” Cohen said during his taped deposition. “It was essentially backing in numbers to each of the asset classes in order to attain the number that President Trump wanted.”

Trump and his co-defendants “knew that a high net worth was necessary to get and maintain certain financial benefits,” Wallace said, pointing to basic principles of accounting and finance.

Throughout Wallace’s remarks, the attorney general’s office flashed graphics on television screens inside the courtroom showing some of the alleged inflated values of Trump’s properties alongside the amounts the properties were appraised at.

Seated in his chair with his arms crossed, Trump visibly shook his head at times during the prosecutor’s opening statement. At one point he seemed to mutter something under his breath.

The former president whispered with his attorneys throughout.

Oct 02, 10:45 AM EDT
Opening statements underway

Opening statements are underway in former President Trump’s $250 million fraud trial.

Trump is seated between his attorneys Clifford Robert, Alina Habba and Christopher Kise.

Trump and his co-defendants face a bench trial, meaning that the sole arbiter of the case is Judge Arthur Engoron instead of a jury.

Oct 02, 10:19 AM EDT
Trump seated in courtroom

Former President Trump has taken a seat in the courtroom for the start of the trial.

“The crime is against me,” he told reporters outside the courtroom before he made his way inside.

He denounced the case in now-familiar terms, criticizing state Attorney General Letitia James as she sat inside the courtroom.

Trump also accused Judge Arthur Engoron of failing to account for the full value of his real estate portfolio, asserting his Mar-a-Lago estate is worth “50 to 100 times more” than the judge’s decision for partial summary judgment said last week.

“We have other properties, the same thing. So he devalued everything,” Trump said. “We have among the greatest properties in the world. and I have to go through this for political reasons.”

Engoron decided Trump’s statements of financial condition were fraudulent, but Trump said, “We have a clause in the contract that says, essentially, buyer beware.”

Oct 02, 10:09 AM EDT
Trump calls trial ‘political witch hunt’

Former President Trump, speaking to reporters on his arrival at the lower Manhattan courthouse, said the trial is a witch hunt resulting from his standing in the presidential polls.

“This is a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt of all time,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.

Trump said he is innocent of the accusations and that his portfolio has a much higher value than what the attorney general alleges.

Oct 02, 9:59 AM EDT
Trump attorneys call trial ‘election interference’

Members of Donald Trump’s legal team, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse prior to the start of the trial, called the fraud allegations against the former president “election interference.”

Trump’s attorneys said that Democrats were using the case to fight Trump’s efforts to retake the White House in 2024.

Oct 02, 9:43 AM EDT
Attorney general arrives at courthouse

New York Attorney General Letitia James has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan.

“No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law,” James said to the cameras before entering the courthouse.

“Today we will prove our case in court,” she said. “Justice will prevail.”

Demonstrators across the street from the courthouse cheered and applauded as the AG arrived.

Oct 02, 8:19 AM EDT
NY attorney general releases statement on 1st day of trial

New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement on Monday just hours before the first day of trial in her fraud case against former President Donald Trump.

“For years, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system,” James said. “We won the foundation of our case last week and proved that his purported net worth has long been rooted in incredible fraud. In this country, there are consequences for this type of persistent fraud, and we look forward to demonstrating the full extent of his fraud and illegality during trial.”

“No matter how rich or powerful you are, there are not two sets of laws for people in this country,” she added. “The rule of law must apply equally to everyone, and it is my responsibility to make sure that it does.”

Oct 02, 8:14 AM EDT
Trial scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET

The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, et al, is scheduled to get underway in lower Manhattan at 10 a.m. with opening statements.

If opening statements are completed before the end of the day, the New York attorney general plans to begin her case by calling Trump’s former Mazars USA accountant Donald Bender to the stand.

Mazars severed its business relationship with the former president last year after learning of the attorney general’s findings during the AG’s probe.

Oct 02, 7:10 AM EDT
Judge has already found that Trump overvalued his assets

Though Trump has denied all wrongdoing alleged by the attorney general, Judge Arthur Engoron has already decided the central allegation against Trump and his co-defendants, ruling in a pretrial hearing last week that the AG had provided “conclusive evidence” that Trump overvalued his assets between $812 million and $2.2 billion.

The judge then canceled the Trump Organization’s business certificates in New York, severely restricting Trump’s ability to conduct business in the state moving forward — a move that Trump attorney Alina Habba called “nonsensical” and “outrageously overreaching.”

“In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air,” Engoron wrote, citing multiple arguments made by defense to justify the allegedly inflated valuations of Trump’s assets. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”

Among the issues still to be determined at trial: What additional penalties Trump might face, and what might happen with the multiple causes of action included in the attorney general’s suit.

Oct 02, 6:43 AM EDT
Trump blasts judge ahead of trial

Former President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on the judge overseeing and deciding his case, writing on Truth Social overnight that Justice Arthur Engoron should resign and be sanctioned for “abuse of power.”

Similar to his earlier post, Trump focused on the alleged inflated value of Mar-a-Lago, in addition to an appellate decision that his lawyers unsuccessfully tried to use to limit the timeframe of the case.

Oct 02, 6:39 AM EDT
Trump says he will attend trial’s opening

Former President Trump posted on his Truth Social platform Sunday night that he intends to attend the opening of the trial.

“See you in court — Monday morning,” he wrote in a post.

Earlier Sunday, multiple sources familiar with the decision told ABC News that Trump was expecting to attend.

Trump will have no speaking role in court on Monday, but it is anticipated that he’ll return to the courthouse toward the end of the state’s case when court records show he will be called as a witness.

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