New York City — Former President Donald Trump sat attentively in the courtroom of his New York civil fraud trial on Thursday, watching as the defense's final expert witness, Eli Bartov, proclaimed that there was "no evidence whatsoever of any accounting fraud."
On Friday, Bartov revealed that he has made approximately $877,500 for his expert testimony in this case — charging $1,350 per hour for about 650 hours of work. When questioned by lawyers for the state of New York about who was paying him, Bartov replied that his bank statements showed some of the money was paid by the Trump Organization and some came from Trump's Save America PAC.
The discussion of Bartov's compensation came shortly after one of Trump's attorneys, Alina Habba, expressed her frustration to Judge Engoron about objections made by the attorney general's team.
"Why are we wasting our time if no one is listening to the words coming out of our experts' mouths?" Habba asked.
Another expert witness for the defense, Frederick Chin, who testified earlier in the week on real estate valuation, admitted that he billed $850 per hour for 1,000 hours of work, totaling $850,000. The state's only expert witness, Michael McCarty, acknowledged that he was paid a rate of $950 per hour, but worked far fewer hours, estimating that he made about $350,000 for his testimony.
These rates provide a glimpse into the high costs of just one of Trump's many legal battles, a set of criminal and civil challenges for which the Save Americaalone.
Trump stayed at the courthouse all day for Thursday's proceedings and periodically spoke outside the courtroom throughout the day, lauding Bartov, an accounting professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, and his testimony several times.
"This is a disgraceful situation. Never seen anything like it," said Trump. "But this expert witness, highly respected by everybody, with a resume that few people have ever seen before, said there was no fraud, there was no accounting fraud, there was nothing."
He later praised Bartov's credentials as "a leading expert, a leading person, a man who sits on the Pulitzer committee, most respected person, the Stern School, NYU, top professor, a very honest man who by the way, (is) very honorable," and said, "If he didn't agree, he wouldn't say what he's saying. And he said these were incredible loans. I didn't even need the money."
Bartov himself seemed to be a witness tailor-made for the former president in his superlative assessments of Trump's financial statements.
"I've never seen a statement that provides so much detail and is so transparent," he said. "The footnotes provide an awesome amount of information."
The professor also said that if the statements were turned in as a project in his class, "they would get an A."
The state's attorneys expressed skepticism about Bartov's findings, leading to some heated moments in the courtroom.
"This is pure speculation from someone that they've hired to say just whatever it is they want in this case," attorney Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the state attorney general, said during an objection to Bartov's testimony Thursday.
Trump's attorney, Jesus Suarez replied, "Oh that's nasty, man."
"It is," said Wallace.
"Very rude," said Suarez.
Bartov then shouted at Wallace, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for talking like that. You make up allegations that never existed. There is no evidence of this."
In his testimony, Bartov strongly disputed the grounds of the lawsuit brought by Letitia James, the New York attorney general, saying that from an accounting perspective, it has no merit. He said that Trump's use of disclaimers in his financial statements clearly indicated that lenders should do their own due diligence and downplayed discrepancies in the financial statements, explaining that lenders are expected to make their own independent valuations.
"To me, the case isn't about valuations. It's about statements of financial conditions," said Judge Engoron during a tense exchange with Trump's attorneys on Friday. "You can't use false statements in business. That's what the summary judgment decision was all about. I think it's pretty much what the rest of this case was about."
Judge Engoron ruled before the trial began that Trump and the other defendants were liable for fraud in a partial summary judgment. Trump, his older two sons Donald Jr and Eric, and their company are accused of inflating the value of assets on key financial records to obtain favorable loans and insurance deals. They have denied wrongdoing in the case.
Trump, who already, was scheduled to return to court on Monday, Dec. 11 but then announced the day before that after all.
Cross-examination of Bartov is expected to resume on Tuesday, as this case comes to a close.
— Graham Kates contributed to this report.
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