There remained no love lost between New York Judge Arthur Engoron and Donald Trump‘s lawyers on the first day of the former president’s $250 million civil fraud trial initially brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
On September 26, Engoron ruled that Trump made false and misleading financial statements for years when valuing properties including his Mar-a-Lago resort and his triplex apartment at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
James’ original suit alleges that Trump, his sons and The Trump Organization falsified business records, issued false financial statements, and engaged in insurance fraud and conspiracy. It could potentially result in a penalty that includes the former president forking over some properties and assets to settle debts.
Engoron reportedly engaged in arguments with both Alina Habba and Christopher Kise, both members of Trump’s legal counsel, on Monday, according to The Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery, who was in the courtroom.
Habba, who was presenting in front of Trump himself, said Trump properties “are Mona Lisa properties” and claimed that Mar-a-Lago could sell for $1 billion. The situation reportedly escalated when she brought up Engoron’s past decisions and how her client had been dealing with this suit for three years.
She also said that the opening statement made by Kevin Wallace of the attorney general’s office was “testimony,” which Engoron pointed out and corrected.
The judge also rejected her characterization of the suit as a “witch hunt,” which he said was affirmed by the appellate court. Habba responded by saying that James’ statements on the courthouse steps were “part of the shakeup.”
“You can’t look at a property ten years later and say, ‘Now look what it’s worth,’” Engoron told her. “This is about current market value.”
Kise also dug his feet in while presenting, telling Engoron that he owes it to the defendants to listen to the evidence and to hear from more experts.
“I don’t think you’re an expert on accounting standards,” Kise said.
Kise and other members of Trump’s defense team were each fined $7,500 by Engoron last week for making “indefensible” remarks about Trump-owned properties and their valuations—including one example that stated that the square footage of an apartment could be subjective.
Engoron, who Kise and others attempted to remove and even sue, called their remarks part of a “fantasy world.”
Engoron told Kise today that for James’ office to not investigate the claims initially made by ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen during sworn testimony “would have been a blatant dereliction of duty.”
“The impetus for the investigation was not personal animus, not racial or ethnic or other discrimination, not campaign promises, but was sworn congressional testimony by former Trump associate Michael Cohen that respondents were ‘cooking the books,’” the judge said.
Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign and The Trump Organization via email for comment.
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