Trump’s NY Fraud-Trial Defense Is Costing Millions

  • Trump’s NY fraud trial just wrapped its tenth week of testimony.
  • Of 11 defense experts, two testified for free and the rest charged a total of well over $2 million.
  • Trump’s 11th and final expert charges $1,350 an hour, or $22.50 per minute.

Donald Trump and his Save America PAC are being charged well over $2 million by the accounting and real estate experts who’ve testified for the defense in the ongoing Trump civil fraud trial in New York, according to the experts’ own testimony.

In all, eleven experts have testified on Trump’s behalf since early November in the trial, at which state Attorney General Letitia James seeks more than $250 million in penalties for what the judge has already ruled was rampant fraud in Trump’s annual net-worth statements.

Two of these experts testified early on in the defense case, and told the judge presiding over the non-jury trial that they were not getting paid.

The first freebie expert was developer and Trump mega-donor Steve Witkoff. The second was insurance broker and Trump golf buddy Gary Giulietti. Both pals testified that in their opinion, banks and insurers probably paid little attention to their friend’s net-worth statements.

A total of nine paid experts have also testified for the defense.

In questioning during the trial or in prior depositions, lawyers for the state have asked each of these nine experts what they were charging for their time.

Based on that testimony, their total adds up, conservatively, to $2.33 million in defense expert fees.

Trump’s most expensive expert is making $22.50 per minute

Trump’s eleventh and final expert witness wins the trophy for having the highest hourly fee in the group: $1,350.

He is New York University professor Eli Bartov, an accounting expert whose testimony has stretched from Thursday into Friday and is still not over.

Bartov testified that he has spent roughly 650 hours working as a Trump defense expert; that means he has cost Trump Organization and the Save America PAC at least $877,500.

Those 650 hours works out to the equivalent of working a full time, 40-hour week for Trump for four months, on top of his teaching schedule.

Bartov testified Friday that in his opinion, banks ignored Trump’s net worth statements, which he opined contained absolutely no fraud whatsoever.

“There is no way they relied on the statements of financial condition when they made their lending decision,” Bartov said of Trump’s bankers, using the formal term for net-worth statements.  

“This is pure speculation from someone they hired to say whatever they want,” Kevin Wallace, a lead lawyer for the AG, said during Bartov’s testimony on Thursday.

“I am here to tell you the truth!” Bartov snapped back. “You should be ashamed of yourself talking to me like that!”

A decade of fraud

The state counters that banks very much relied on Trump’s math, and that, in any event, it is illegal to lie in a financial document.

Trump’s annual net-worth statements contained billions of dollars of lies and exaggerations each year, they allege. These frauds tricked banks into cutting Trump a total of $169 million in interest breaks, they also allege.

The trial defendants include Trump, his two eldest sons, and two additional longstanding Trump Organization executives, all of whom conspired in drafting the statements.

Trump was at the head of this conspiracy, the AG has alleged.

Trump’s real estate company and his political super PAC are both footing his bill, Bartov said.

“I submit my bills, invoices, to the Trump Organization,” the professor testified Friday, when asked by defense lawyer Jesus Suarez about how he is paid.

“Some of it gets paid by the Trump Organization and some of it is paid by Save America,” Bartov said. “I got no additional detail that I can show you,” he added.

One-stop expert witness shopping

Four of Trump’s paid witnesses come from the international consultancy firm Ankura, including accounting expert Jason Flemmons, whose testimony a month ago contradicted what Bartov would say this week.

Flemmons testified that there were indeed “glaring” problems in Trump’s net-worth statements. Trump’s outside accountants were to blame, he said, for any “inconsistencies.”

The four Ankura consultants account for at least half of the Trump defense’s more than two million dollar expert witness bill.

The defense will rest its case next week

Trump plans to make an encore trip to the witness stand Monday, this time as a defense witness, his lawyers have promised.

Bartov’s testimony is expected to resume and conclude Tuesday, after which the defense has said it will rest its case. Lawyers for the state have said they expect to present testimony by at least two rebuttal witnesses.

At the conclusion of next week’s testimony, the case will go quiet for some three weeks, while both sides prepare written briefs summarizing their arguments.

These briefs are due to be submitted to the trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, by December 5.

Beyond the $2.3 million being charged by experts, it’s unclear how much Trump’s fraud trial defense is costing.

Anywhere from four to six defense lawyers show up in court on each of the ten weeks of trial days.

Christopher Kise, Trump’s lead fraud-trial lawyer, is reportedly on a $3 million retainer, though he is also leading the defense in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

During the first half of this year, Save America, the pro-Trump super PAC, has paid more than $40 million of the GOP frontrunner’s legal battles, which include the New York fraud trial.

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