Amid a contentious back-and-forth with the judge presiding over his civil fraud trial in New York City on Monday, Donald Trump acknowledged that he’d influenced the valuation of several of his properties.
“Did you ever think that the values were off in your statement of financial condition?” Assistant Attorney General Kevin Wallace asked the former president.
“Yes, on occasion,” Trump responded. “Both high and low.”
Asked in particular about a 2017 statement regarding the value of Trump’s penthouse apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, Trump said it “probably” came at his direction.
“Probably, I said I thought it was too high,” Trump said. “I don’t know what’s too high anymore, because I’m seeing things sold at numbers that are very high.”
In earlier financial statements, Trump falsely claimed the apartment was more than 30,000 square feet, a significant exaggeration that had to be walked back after a Forbes magazine investigation found the property was actually less than 11,000 square feet.
In a separate line of questioning Monday, Trump distanced himself from a statement of financial condition from 2021, claiming he was busy at the time “keeping our country safe” from the likes of China and Russia.
“I was so busy in the White House,” Trump said. “My threshold was China, Russia and keeping our country safe.”
“Just for the record,” Wallace replied, “you weren’t president in 2021?”
“No, I wasn’t,” Trump acknowledged.
The value of Trump’s various real estate holdings lies at the center of the case against him. New York Attorney General Letitia James claims Trump grossly and fraudulently inflated the value of the holdings for decades.
Trump executives, including Trump’s two eldest sons, who testified last week, have largely distanced themselves from the financial statements and blamed the accounting firm responsible for drafting them.
Trump has also repeatedly claimed that a disclaimer clause appended to the statements absolves him of all responsibility. The clause says “don’t believe the statement, go and do your own work,” Trump claimed in an earlier deposition. “The statement is worthless. It means nothing.”
Judge Arthur Engoron pointedly disagreed.
“The clause does not use the words ‘worthless’ or ‘useless’ or ‘ignore’ or any similar words,” Engoron wrote. “It does not say ‘The values herein are what I think the properties will be worth in 10 or more years.’”