By Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A lawyer for Donald Trump on Friday accused New York Attorney General Letitia James of ignoring “everything” as she pursues a civil lawsuit alleging that the former president ran a systematic fraud at his family business.
Christopher Kise, Trump’s lawyer, made the accusation at a hearing in a New York state court, just 10 days before the scheduled Oct. 2 trial.
Justice Arthur Engoron considered defense arguments to throw out most or all claims against Trump, his adult sons and the Trump Organization, and James’ arguments that the defendants should be found liable for fraud even before the trial starts.
James has accused Trump of lying in financial statements between 2011 and 2021 to obtain better terms on loans and insurance, defrauding banks and insurers.
She said the lies included overvaluing properties including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and Trump Tower penthouse in Manhattan, and inflating his own fortune by as much as $3.6 billion.
Kise said the evidence was not there, and that James’ contrary statements did not make it so.
“The foundation of the case is to ignore everything,” Kise said. “The case comes down to prosecuting the defendants for engaging in successful business transactions.”
Andrew Amer, a lawyer for James, reviewed about one dozen assets whose values Trump allegedly manipulated.
This allegedly included valuing Mar-a-Lago at $739 million by pretending it was unrestricted property though Trump had given up rights to develop it other than as a club, and reporting that the penthouse was nearly triple its actual size.
“In (the) defendants’ world, there’s no objective truth,” Amer said. “Defendants have clearly stepped through the looking glass.”
James’ lawsuit seeks to bar Trump and his adult sons Donald Jr. And Eric from running businesses in New York. It also seeks at least $250 million of penalties.
In June, a state appeals court dismissed claims against Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and various other claims predating July 2014 or February 2016 because of statutes of limitations, leaving it to Engoron to determine which parts could proceed.
Engoron said he will rule on Sept. 26 on both sides’ motions for summary judgment. If he sides with the defendants, there may be no trial.
The judge is also expected to rule on James’ request that the defendants be sanctioned for repeatedly raising “frivolous” arguments he had already rejected.
Trump, a Republican, has called the lawsuit by James, a Democrat, a “witch hunt.”
He enjoys a dominating lead in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, despite facing a slew of litigation including four criminal indictments where he has pleaded not guilty.
Last week, Trump sued Engoron, accusing him of taking too long to narrow the case.
The lawsuit sought to delay the trial, to allow the defendants to prepare properly after Engoron decides which claims the attorney general can pursue. Defense lawyers have also accused James of ignoring the June appeals court decision.
A state appeals court in Manhattan is expected to decide next week whether the trial should proceed as scheduled.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)
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