Shaking his head, throwing his hands in the air and whispering, former President Donald Trump was frustrated during his civil trial in a New York City court on Wednesday.
Trump has already been found guilty of fraud, but remains under investigation on multiple charges, including falsifying business records and conspiracy. The government is seeking $250 million and tougher restrictions on Trump businesses. He and his co-defendants have denied all wrongdoing in the case.
On the stand was a real estate executive and an appraiserOn Tuesday, he was cited in the Trump Organization’s datasets as advising the company on evaluation methods.
Attorney Lazaro Fields repeatedly asked Doug Larsen, the executive, whether he had misappraised a building during cross-examination. Larson, who appraised the building for the bank several years ago, said no several times.
Trump’s team argued that appraisals and valuations are subjective opinions that vary from one person to the next — giving a property owner permission to craft their own numbers as far as an expert can tell.
As Larson insisted that he had correctly assessed Trump’s building, Trump’s head jerked from side to side, his whispers growing louder.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, pointed out that Trump’s behavior amounted to intimidation and asked the judge to instruct Trump not to comment.
Judge Arthur Engoron appeared unconcerned, but obliged.
“Okay, I’d like everyone to be quiet while the witness testifies,” Engoran said.
Fields showed Larson nearly a decade-old emails from a Trump Organization executive asking about the ratings, contradicting Larson’s sworn testimony on Tuesday when he said he didn’t help with that in 2013.
Fields asked Larson if he lied. Before he could answer, Fields’ own teammate, Trump lawyer Christopher Kiss, jumped in and interrupted as Larson began to say he couldn’t recall the emails.
Before Larson could respond, he had to consult his own attorney, said Kiss, the former solicitor general for the state of Florida. Wallace again accused the Trump team of “witness intimidation.”
Larson was escorted out of the room. Kiss clarified why he believed Larson should be allowed to consult with his attorney.
“I want the witness to know his 5th Amendment rights because, in my opinion, he perjured himself yesterday,” Kiss said. To Kise’s left, Trump appears in earnest.
Wallace appeared stunned, but not as much as he was a moment later.
“It’s kind of a performance, I take it for the press,” Wallace said.
Kiss fired back, saying he was looking for Larson, a government witness.
“Unlike the government, I take his rights seriously,” Kiss said.
A chorus of attorney generals shouted, referring to Kiss by his first name.
“Chris, come on!”
At the time, Larson’s own attorney wanted to speak with him because Kiss raised the possibility of perjury. The judge, who repeatedly said the trial should be more efficient, said no.
“So what? If he lied to himself, he lied to himself,” Nkoron said. “Get him back in position.”
When Larson returned, he said he didn’t recall the emails from a decade ago, but looking at them now, he appeared to have consulted with a Trump Organization executive about evaluation methods.
Later, the attorney general’s lawyer showed Larsen deposition transcripts and emails that appeared consistent and truthful in his testimony — among other things, that he frequently discussed appraisal methods with a large number of real estate executives. It is unlikely to recall a private conversation about it. Kiss objected and said it was his turn to accuse the government of working for the press.
Throughout the exchanges, Trump showed intense interest. In comments outside the courtroom, he was pleased with the exchange.
“The government is lying. They lied. They didn’t disclose all the information and evidence they had, and that shows how innocent I am,” Trump said before praising his defense attorneys. “It’s like Perry Mason.”