Trump, who is running in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, appeared in New York court on Monday for his trial into business fraud allegations raised by New York Attorney Letitia James, who accused him, his adult sons and businesses of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain benefits such as better bank loans and reduced tax bills between 2011 and 2021.
Engoron, the judge assigned to oversee the case, last week sided with James that the former president committed fraud. The civil trial will now focus on the six other accusations raised by James, which include falsifying business records, insurance fraud and conspiracy claims during the trial. Because Trump’s legal team allegedly never asked for a jury in this case, Engoron will rule on the claims himself.
Trump, who has maintained his innocence and accused prosecutors of targeting him for political purposes, attended the opening day of the trial. He is expected to eventually be called as a witness.
Weissmann, who served as an assistant United States attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the general counsel for the FBI, said during a discussion on MSNBC Monday his testimony is unlikely to change Engoron’s mind after he sided with James last week.
“I think he kind of has no choice, but I think it’s going to be an extremely difficult time for him on the stand if he chooses to testify,” he said. “One, because the judge has already made findings against him, it’s going to be very hard to get him to change his mind, and there’s good reason for that.”
He pointed to the former President misstating the size of his Trump Tower Triplex to inflate its valuation as one example of evidence that would make it difficult for Engoron to change his mind. James accused him of claiming the apartment is 30,000 square feet when in actuality it is 10,000 square feet.
Weissmann said, “It’s hard to say anything other than he lied about” the size of his apartment and that his defense “did not have an argument” to explain why the misstatement was not “intentional.”
He said it would be very hard for Trump to convince Engoron that he did not have bad intent.
“The defense is, even if I intentionally lied, the banks didn’t rely on it. In other words, they didn’t care because they were looking at other things. And that is actually their main argument and the only one they can sort of hope to prevail on, but it’s super unattractive, right? That is like, ‘I’m an intentional fraudster, but the banks were actually looking at other things,'” he said.