Former President Donald Trump doubled down on calling New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case against him a “witch hunt meant to influence an election” after an expert witness testified there was “no evidence” the 2024 presidential candidate committed fraud.
“My main finding is that there is no evidence whatsoever of any accounting fraud,” Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at New York University, told the court on Thursday.
James, a Democrat who campaigned on the promise to sue Trump, filed a civil case alleging the Republican, his children, and the Trump Organization “grossly” inflated their assets in financial statements by billions of dollars.
Arthur Engoron, a judge of the Supreme Court 1st Judicial District in New York, was quick to escalate James’ unfair appraisal of Trump’s $739 million Mar-a-Lago home from $75 million to between $18 million and $27.6 million. The Democrat used the lowball appraisal in a sweeping ruling in September that sought to hinder Trump from conducting business in the state of New York.
Bartov, who was tasked by the defense with reviewing the president’s financial assets, rejected Engoron’s assessment and warned that real estate values are subjectively determined.
“If somebody tells you that an evaluation is objective, this person has to have their head examined,” he said.
“My analysis shows the statements of financial condition for all the years were not materially misstated,” he further asserted.
The only discrepancy Bartov discovered in Trump’s records was the valuation of his Manhattan triplex apartment, which appeared to have tripled in value over one year. The veteran accountant noted that the $80 million to $180 million difference between 2011 and 2012 appeared to have been an “error” but assured the court that “there is no evidence here of concealment.”
“It’s true this is an error. But it is no fraud,” he said, noting that accounting “errors like that” are often “inevitable” and that outside auditors clearly missed it.
Bartov concluded that James’ case has “no merit.”
Trump celebrated the expert in a press conference at the courthouse on Thursday but warned, “Nothing will have any bearing on what this judge does.”
“This case should be over. This case should have never been brought. This was a political witch hunt by an attorney general who is out of control and tried to get elected governor and failed. But this is a political witch hunt, and our country should be ashamed of what’s going on,” Trump said.
He once again identified the case as a partisan scheme dreamed up by Democrats who want to hamper his 2024 chances.
“What they’ve done is they’ve weaponized justice,” Trump said. “This is coming from the White House because I’m beating Biden by a lot.”
In October, Engoron giddily muzzled Trump from his First Amendment right to scrutinize the partisan campaign to undermine and break up the Trump Organization. A state appeals judge temporarily suspended that gag order in November when Engoron had already fined Trump and his legal team a total of $15,000 over a social media post and criticism of the judge’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, a leftist partisan with ties to several high-profile “get Trump” Democrats.
Despite previous attempts by Trump’s legal team to get a mistrial based on the “tangible and overwhelming” bias plaguing the proceedings, the trial is scheduled to continue on Monday.