Appraiser Testifies in Trump Fraud Trial as Michael Cohen Delays Court Appearance

Former President Donald Trump’s trial in New York enters its third week.
Appraiser Testifies in Trump Fraud Trial as Michael Cohen Delays Court Appearance
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a break in his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York on Oct. 17, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Catherine Yang
Former President Donald Trump was present Tuesday in the New York state Supreme Court for the financial fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James. President Trump was expecting to see his former attorney Michael Cohen on the witness stand. Mr. Cohen postponed his appearance, saying on social media that he had to take care of a health condition.

Court Adjourns–4:40 p.m.

The trial ended for the day before 5 p.m.
Appraiser Douglas Larson was cross-examined by defense attorneys in the afternoon, and the questioning will continue Wednesday.

Prosecution Shows 2 Appraisals With Different Numbers, Same Date–3:48 p.m.

Prosecutors showed former Cushman and Wakefield appraiser Douglas Larson two appraisal reports he dated Nov. 1, 2012.

The reports had different numbers, and Mr. Larson was questioned as to which one he submitted to Capital One first. Mr. Larson said he didn’t know.

Prosecutors then showed the 2011 and 2012 appraisals in granular detail, pointing out that the cost per square foot in 2011 was less than that of 2012, but a note stated that the 2012 price had gone up by 12 cents per square foot.

Court Back in Session–2 p.m.

The trial resumed with appraiser Douglas Larson back on the witness stand.

Trump Attorney Shares Disclaimer–1:55 p.m.

Attorney Alina Habba returned to court, reading the disclaimer Former President Donald Trump has frequently alluded to in his financial statements. A key defense on his part is that the disclaimer gives notice to the banks and lenders that they need to do their own analyses, because the Trump Organization may be using different methodology.

“What is happening now is that they’re saying the attorney general is now going to use 63(12) against consumers, and she’s going to come after you and your business, and that she will bring your children involved,” she said, referencing the statute the prosecutors are using in their case.

Reporters asked about the legal proceedings, as well as the testimonies from earlier Tuesday morning.

“I think you guys need to understand something: banks hire appraisers,” she said. “You are an individual, you go to get something appraised, you say ’my house is worth x,' the bank doesn’t take your word for it.”

“They hire people like that gentleman to go do their own values,” she said, referring to a witness who had appraised 40 Wall Street when he worked at Cushman and Wakefield for a bank client. “Those values are going to be lower than the ones that the homeowner or the commercial real estate owner would use. It’s very basic.”

“But that’s not what this is about,” Ms. Habba said, adding that having the name and brand “Trump” on some of those properties elevated the value as well.

Trump: ‘The Trial Is Going Very Well’–12:52 p.m.

President Trump answered reporters’ questions on his way out of the courtroom for the lunch break. He is expected to leave and not return for the rest of the day as he is being deposed in a case former FBI employees brought against the Department of Justice.

“The trial is going very well,” he said. “Deutsche Bank testified that, first of all, the loans were paid off. There was no default, there was no problem, there was no victim–except me.”

“This is just a witch hunt by an attorney general who ran for governor and failed,” he claimed. “You know what they have against us? Nothing.”

He said he would be presenting in trial commendations he received from the banks for having such a good record as a borrower.

“Any business that moved into New York–you should not do it. You should stay the hell out of here because, I'll tell you what, this is a corrupt system that we’re in,” he said.

A reporter asked: “Why do you think your family is being persecuted?”

“Because I’m leading the polls against Biden by a lot,” he said. “If I weren’t running for president and doing so well–winning–it wouldn’t be happening.”

“You know what happened in 2016 and 2020,” he said.

Lunch Break–12:50 p.m.

After the prosecutors emphasized that former Cushman and Wakefield appraiser Douglas Larson never spoke with Trump Organization about cap rates, the court broke for lunch.

Court Back in Session With Appraiser’s Testimony–11:50 a.m.

Appraiser Douglas Larson, formerly with Cushman and Wakefield, is continuing his testimony on the appraisal he conducted of 40 Wall Street in 2015, discussing the factors he takes into consideration.

Mr. Larson had carried out the appraisal for lenders to the Trump Organization and was not contracted by Trump Organization personnel.

In 2016 and 2018 financial statements, the Trump Organization noted they had spoken with Mr. Larson in 2013, and relied on his advice in their cap rates, which is the assessment of the yield of a property over a year.

Mr. Larson said he did not know that the Trump Organization was using his report to calculate their financial statements. The Trump Organization had used higher rates than Mr. Larson, who left Cushman and Wakefield in 2017.

He said he did not speak with the Trump Organization executives, and it was inappropriate of them to say that he did. He added that they should have ordered formal appraisals.

Mr. Larson clarified that he does not do valuations, and his specialty is appraisals only. These analyses consider various factors, and he said he does know the process to adjust one value to another.

Trump attorneys objected to the prosecutors using a document not disclosed earlier, but the judge overruled it.

Court in Recess–11:30 a.m.

Prior to the break, appraiser Douglas Larson had testified about an 11-page appraisal of 40 Wall Street he did in 2015.
He discussed his methodology and said he does a complete inspection of the property, including looking at its tenancy.

Appraiser Next on Witness Stand–11:14 a.m.

Douglas Larson, executive vice president of Valuation and Advisory at Newmark, is testifying next. He previously worked for Cushman and Wakefield.

Trump Organization Employee Testifies–10:40 a.m.

Donna Kidder, assistant comptroller at the Trump Organization, has taken the witness stand.

Prosecutors are questioning Ms. Kidder about 40 Wall Street, which was given a refinancing loan.

Ms. Kidder kept track of Ivanka Trump’s deals and agreements, and the prosecutors questioned her about the 2011 and 2012 leases of the 502 Park Avenue apartment.

Attorneys for President Trump objected, as this falls outside the statute of limitations as defined by an appeals court.

Ms. Kidder was also asked about a spreadsheet she prepared in 2018 with projected licensing fees, and explained how she got to those numbers.

Defense attorneys questioned the relevance to the case, but the judge permitted prosecutors to continue their line of questioning and connect it back to the case.

The prosecutors explained the figures Ms. Kidder came up with match the ones Mazars submitted in the annual Statements of Financial Condition (SFC).

There was no cross-examination.

Trump Returns to Court–9:53 a.m.

Former President Donald Trump returned to “a trial that should not be taking place” on Tuesday, speaking to reporters and summarizing the events thus far.
Last week, the prosecutors called former Deutsche Bank risk management officer Nicholas Haig to the witness stand, whose testimony countered in part the prosecutors’ narrative that banks and insurers took undue risks due to President Trump’s valuations of his properties. They had previously called on accountants for the Trump Organization and executives to show that the Trump Organization held sole responsibility for the figures in the Statements of Financial Condition (SFC) submitted.

“He was a very powerful witness and we have other executives coming in from banks that will say the same thing,” President Trump said.

He accused New York Attorney General Letitia James of bringing a politically motivated case, pointing out that she had said in several campaign events that she would “get Trump.”

“This is the Attorney General of the New York State,” he said. “She shouldn’t be allowed to be Attorney General.”

He reiterated the widely reported point that Ms. James said to Mar-a-Lago was worth between $18 million and $26 million based on county assessor data, which the judge affirmed in his pretrial summary ruling. The figure has been widely disputed by real estate professionals as having nothing to do with how valuation is calculated, and President Trump is pointing to this fact as evidence the judge and prosecutor are biased.

“It’s worth 50, probably 100 times more than that,” President Trump said. “Based on that they ruled against me, having to do with fraud ... They are the frauds.”

“We'll have people come up on the stand and say that,” he added.

President Trump claimed the was was “rigged” against him, with no jury and a prosecutor and judge biased against him. He said that the other cases against him are similar, pointing to the gag order a federal just imposed on him yesterday in a case alleging he criminally interfered with the 2020 elections.
President Trump is expected to leave in the afternoon, for a scheduled deposition in a case where former FBI agent Peter Strzok is suing the Department of Justice, alleging his firing was political.

Trump Trial to Resume–9:25 a.m.

Former President Donald Trump’s trial in New York is now in its third week, and the former president is expected to attend several days this week, as well as next week when his former lawyer Michael Cohen—whose testimony launched this case—is expected to take the witness stand. Mr. Cohen was originally scheduled to testify this week, but had to reschedule due to a medical issue.
“I will be attending the trial in Manhattan this morning. I greatly appreciate all of the legal professors and scholars that are saying I DID NOTHING WRONG,” he wrote on Truth Social at 7:30 a.m.

“I can’t have a JURY and am being viciously tried under a Statute that has never been used before. The Radical Left Democrat Judge, WHO IS HIGHLY POLITICAL, serves as Judge, Jury, and everything else. America cannot let this happen. Our legal system is corrupt and broken! Everything emanates from Washington, ‘GET TRUMP.’”

Last September, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued President Trump, accusing him of defrauding the state and lenders and insurers by inflating his net worth. A week before the Oct. 2 trial began, New York Supreme Court Arthur Engoron ruled in a pretrial summary judgment that President Trump was liable for fraud. The ongoing trial will still need to prove Ms. James’s claims and will deal with how much President Trump will need to pay. Judge Engoron is the sole arbiter in the case, as the statute the prosecutors are using does not allow for a jury trial, and the damages they are seeking—$250 million and to bar President Trump and his sons from doing business in the state for five years—needs to be granted by a judge.

Judge Engoron also previously ordered that the Trump Organization be dissolved, and its related LLCs handed over to a third party to do so, but an appeals court has put a pause on that after Trump attorneys cited the hundreds of employees who would abruptly lose their livelihoods as a result of the judge’s unconventional ruling.

The trial is set to begin at 10 a.m., with the former president back in court.

The first week, he surprised the public by making an appearance and staying all day for the trial, speaking at length to the press. Read highlights from the case here.