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NY attorney general presses case against Trump in trial“s second day

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump sat hunched over the defense table as testimony resumed on Tuesday at his civil fraud trial, with New York state’s attorney general aiming to prove that the former U.S. president inflated his wealth by lying about his real estate empire.


Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, at a Manhattan courthouse, in New York City, U.S., October 3, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Pool

The trial, now in its second day, could lead to the dismantling of Trump’s business empire as he seeks to regain the presidency in 2024.

Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump, his two adult sons and others of inflating asset values over a decade to secure favorable bank loans and insurance terms, and exaggerating Trump’s own riches by more than $2 billion.

Before testimony resumed, Trump renewed his attacks on James, telling reporters outside the courtroom that she was “grossly incompetent” and had concocted a bogus case.

“Her numbers are fraudulent,” said Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election. “She’s a fraud.”

James entered the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

The trial’s second day began with the government’s first witness Donald Bender, Trump’s former accountant at Mazars USA, resuming his testimony. James is trying to show that Trump and his company deceived even his own accountants.

Under questioning from Kevin Wallace, a lawyer in the attorney general’s office, Bender said financial statements he prepared for the Trump Organization were largely based on self-reported figures.

Trump wore his familiar blue suit, red tie and American flag pin. He appeared bored as Bender testified, and spoke frequently with his own lawyers.

James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric from running businesses in New York, and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

The trial judge, Arthur Engoron, has already ruled that Trump committed fraud, and canceled business certificates for companies that control crown jewels of Trump’s portfolio, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in downtown Manhattan.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they will appeal.

During the first day of trial, Wallace accused Trump of “lying year after year” in financial statements he provided to banks and insurers from 2011 to 2021.

Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise countered that his client’s valuations were actually too low, and were based on business acumen that let Trump build “one of the most successful real estate empires in the world.”

The trial could last until late this year.

Others expected to testify include the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer and controller, and Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Trump and his adult sons are also on James’ witness list.

After the trial ends, Trump still faces four criminal indictments over his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents, and hush money paid to a porn star.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in all of the cases. He also faces a January civil damages trial for defaming a writer who accused him of rape, which he denies.

So far, the government cases have strengthened him politically, and his campaign is using the issue to raise money by making him appear to be a martyr for Democrats using sham court cases to prevent him from retaking the White House.

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