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NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s defense team transformed a Manhattan courtroom into a Trump Organization infomercial Monday with an hourslong presentation featuring dozens of glossy photos of Trump properties — ballrooms, golf courses, pools and rooftop penthouses — all narrated by Donald Trump Jr.
The former president’s eldest child testified as the first witness called by the defense in a $250 million civil trial in which Trump, his adult sons and their business associates stand accused of fraudulently inflating Trump real estate assets in order to obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers. Trump Jr. had previously testified as a witness called by New York Attorney General Tish James’ office, which rested its case last week after presenting evidence for nearly a month and a half.
On Monday, Trump Jr. spent more than two hours talking up his father’s brand, detailing the history of his family business dating back to the 1900s and showering his father with praise. Trump Jr. hailed the former president as “a visionary” and “an artist with real estate,” saying that “how to figure out and create value is a part of his magic.”
An attorney for the defense, Clifford Robert, questioned Trump Jr., who is a defendant in the case, about a slideshow titled, “The Trump Story,” which consisted of professional, brochure-quality photographs of chandelier-filled banquet halls, verdant golf course grounds and glass-walled skyscrapers.
Though a lawyer for James’ office attempted to halt the presentation by objecting to it, Justice Arthur Engoron allowed it to proceed.
“Objection’s overruled,” the judge said. “Let him go ahead and talk about how great the Trump Organization is.”
That he did.
Trump Jr. spoke fondly of Trump Seven Springs, a sprawling estate in Westchester where, he said, his New York City-raised children have escaped to ride ATVs and frolic in the woods. He marveled at the company’s repurposing of former bank vaults at the 40 Wall Street skyscraper, which they transformed into amenities featuring a wine room and a cafe, calling them “truly a mechanical work of art.” Of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, he said it was “another example of my father being on the leading edge of creativity.”
During cross-examination, a lawyer for James’ office attempted to puncture the vision Trump Jr. had articulated, asking him about news stories showing the occupancy of 40 Wall Street has dropped to 77 percent and that it has been on a lender watchlist since February due to concerns about expenses and vacancies. She also asked him about reports that the owner of the Trump International Hotel Waikiki is buying the hotel out of its licensing deal with the Trumps so that it can “dump” the Trump name.
When she first introduced the news story about 40 Wall Street, a Trump lawyer objected to it.
“You’re going to start questioning the relevance of this document?” Engoron asked. Referring to the Trump presentation, he said: “I just gave you a whole morning of irrelevance.”