On the second day of Donald Trump’s bank fraud trial on Tuesday, the New York Attorney General’s investigators began to lay the groundwork to show that the business tycoon’s outside accountants wouldn’t stand by his bogus real estate values.
The judge was shown agreements Trump made with WeiserMazars, the outside accounting firm he contracted year after year to compile his personal statements of financial condition.
AG senior enforcement counsel Kevin Wallace presented a notable cautionary warning on the first page of a 2017 engagement letter: “You are responsible for the content of the financial statement, including the estimated current value of assets and the estimated current value of liabilities.”
The letter later added, “We will not express an opinion or a conclusion nor provide any assurance on the financial statement.”
The achingly boring testimony of the AG’s first witness, Trump’s longtime outside accountant Donald Bender, inched along at a snail’s pace. But as it went on, it became clear that state investigators are strengthening the case that Trump and his top advisers were responsible for wildly inflating his riches—not his bean counters.
“Who was responsible for preparing them?” Wallace asked.
“The Trump Org and the trustees,” Bender responded, referring to a “Trump Revocable Trust” that was setup when Trump became president in 2017.
In one example, state attorneys pointed to the signatures of Trump Organization executive Don Jr. and the disgraced former company chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who served time at Rikers Island jail for being a tax cheat earlier this year.
This marks the second time that the unassuming New York accountant has become a witness against his trusted client. Last year, the Manhattan District Attorney relied on his testimony to nail the Trump Organization for tax fraud.
In this separate case, which can be viewed as a continuation of an overall effort to hold the Trump family accountable for shady business dealings, state investigators are seeking to empty his bank accounts and boot him from the business world for incessantly lying about his wealth.
The Trumps’ legal defense team—Christopher Kise, Alina Habba, and Clifford Robert—all objected repeatedly to use of financial statements and engagement letters from 2011 through 2016, raising already failed arguments that they’re too old to be litigated.
However, the judge kept overruling their protests and listened as the AG’s office reviewed some red flags in those agreements.
In one, Mazars warned the Trumps that “our engagement cannot be relied upon to identify or disclose any financial statement misstatements, including those caused by fraud or error.” In another, the letter noted that the financial statements had curious exceptions to what are called “generally accepted accounting principles.”
The accounting firm, which later became Mazars USA, caused Trump severe embarrassment in February 2022 when it decided to ditch him as a client.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who sat in the front row yesterday and received a menacing look while Trump walked by, appeared yet again on Tuesday. But Trump didn’t give her any side-eye this time around.
Shortly before heading to the courthouse, Trump griped about the law that allows the AG to clamp down on dishonest corporations—one that, in this case, already resulted in the judge putting the famous Trump Organization on a path toward total disintegration. Last week, Justice Arthur F. Engoron concluded the Trump family and top executives committed bank fraud, and he yanked the Trump Organization’s business license.
On Truth Social, Trump railed that “the rarely used Executive Law that the N.Y.A.G. is proceeding under is VERY UNFAIR, and being used against me for that reason.”
“NY Executive Law 63 (12) does not require a victim, traditional elements of fraud are eliminated (the only such law!), the law allows a politically elected partisan prosecutor to convince a politically elected judge, who may be friends, to destroy even a Political Opponent. This law may not be Constitutional and is not FAIR, and that is why terrible A.G. James chose it to use against me!!!” he posted.
His heated rhetoric followed statements he made Monday just outside the courtroom’s doors, in which he continued to accuse the Attorney General and judge of “election interference.”
By contrast, however, Trump continued to remain quiet in court. The only evidence of his displeasure was the unchanging frown he maintained on his way into the room and at the defense table. He appeared furious on the trial’s first day as well, when his lawyers kept raising failed arguments with the judge and aired their grievances about having already lost so much of the case before it even started.
Trump, who it seems stayed up past midnight, raged online about late night show hosts who ridiculed the former president’s legal woes. Stephen Colbert, for example, poked fun at Trump’s federal indictment for hoarding classified records at Mar-a-Lago and the way he piled them up in boxes in his mansion’s bathroom, joking that “he left the launch codes in the splash zone.”
“Now that the ‘strike’ is over, the talentless, low rated CREEPS of Late Night Television are back. I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to see it settled - True LOSERS!!!” Trump complained on Truth Social.