Shaking his head, throwing his hands in the air, whispering, former President Donald Trump appeared frustrated Wednesday in a New York City courtroom during his ongoing civil trial.
Trump has already been found liable for fraud, but the trial is proceeding on several other accusations, including falsification of business records and conspiracy. The state is demanding $250 million and severe restrictions on the Trump businesses. He and his co-defendants have denied all wrongdoing in the case.
On the stand was a real estate executive and appraiser whoTuesday that he was cited in Trump Organization datasets as having advised the company on valuation methods.
Attorney Lazaro Fields repeatedly asked during his cross-examination of the executive, Doug Larson, if he incorrectly appraised a building that ultimately brought in more income than predicted. Larson, who years ago appraised the building for a bank, repeatedly said no.
Trump’s team has argued that valuations and appraisals are subjective opinions, varying from one person to the next – giving a property owner leeway to craft their own numbers far afield of what even an expert might say.
As Larson insisted he correctly appraised Trump’s building, Trump’s head bobbed quickly from side to side, his whispers growing to loud rasps.
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, implied Trump’s behavior was tantamount to witness intimidation, and asked the judge to instruct Trump to refrain from commenting.
Judge Arthur Engoron appeared unconcerned, but obliged.
“OK, I’ll ask everyone to be quiet while the witness is testifying,” Engoron said.
Lazaro showed Larson a series of nearly decade-old emails from a Trump Organization executive asking about valuations, seemingly contradicting Larson’s sworn testimony on Tuesday, when he said he didn’t assist with that in 2013.
Lazaro asked Larson if he lied. Before he could answer, Lazaro’s own teammate, Trump attorney Christopher Kise, jumped up and interrupted as Larson had begun to say he couldn’t recall the emails.
Before Larson answers he should consult his own attorney, said Kise, a former solicitor general for the state of Florida. Wallace once again accused the Trump team of “witness intimidation.”
Larson was led out of the room. Kise then clarified why he believed Larson should’ve been allowed to consult with his attorney.
“I just want the witness to be aware of his 5th Amendment rights, because, in my opinion, he perjured himself yesterday,” Kise said. To Kise’s left, Trump appeared intensely interested.
Wallace appeared appalled, but not as much as he would be a moment later.
“This is some kind of performance, I take it for the press,” Wallace said.
Kise fired back, saying he was looking out for Larson, the government’s witness.
“Unlike the government, I take his rights seriously,” said Kise.
A chorus of attorney general lawyers responded, yelling, referring to Kise by his first name.
“Chris, come on!”
By that point, Larson’s own attorney wanted to speak with him, since Kise raised the prospect of perjury. The judge, who has repeatedly said he wants questioning to be more efficient, said no.
“So what? If he’s perjured himself then he’s perjured himself,” Engoron said. “Get him back on the stand.”
When Larson returned, he maintained that he didn’t recall the emails from a decade ago, but looking at them now, it appeared he had indeed consulted with the Trump Organization executive about valuation methods.
Later, a lawyer for the attorney general showed deposition transcripts and emails that appeared to suggest Larson had been consistent and truthful in his testimony — showing, among other things, that he frequently discusses valuation methodologies with a large number of real estate executives and might be unlikely to recall an individual conversation about that. Kise objected, and said it was his turn to accuse the government of performing for the press, who he implied would likely include that in their coverage.
Throughout the exchanges, Trump appeared intensely interested. In remarks outside the courtroom, he seemed elated with the exchange.
“The government’s lying. They lied. They didn’t reveal all the information they had and evidence they had that shows how innocent I am,” Trump said, before expressing admiration for his defense attorneys. “This is like Perry Mason.”