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  5. At Trump's NY fraud trial, a rep for 'victim' Deutsche Bank wouldn't use the F-word — for fraud

At Trump's NY fraud trial, a rep for 'victim' Deutsche Bank wouldn't use the F-word for fraud

Laura Italiano   

At Trump's NY fraud trial, a rep for 'victim' Deutsche Bank wouldn't use the F-word — for fraud
  • Trump's civil fraud trial, which could run him and Trump Org out of New York, is in its ninth week.
  • A rep for Trump's biggest "victim," Deutsche Bank, testified Tuesday as an unlikely defense witness.

Donald Trump's defense team tried to turn the tables at his civil fraud trial on Tuesday — calling a representative from his own biggest fraud victim, Deutsche Bank, to the witness stand in his defense.

The bank official, who signed off on lending Trump $170 million 10 years ago, sure didn't sound like a fraud victim. Instead, under direct questioning by a Trump lawyer, he testified that the math the former president used to secure that particular pile of money seemed fine to him at the time.

He said the bank double-checked and signed off on the same annual Trump net-worth statements that New York Attorney General Letitia James says were riddled with as much as $3.6 billion in exaggerations a year.

"We're expected to conduct due diligence and verify the information provided to the extent that's possible," the witness, Dave Williams, a Deutsche Bank managing director, told Trump's attorney Clifford Robert.

The bank was paid back in full without default on more than $400 million in total loans, which funded Trump's Miami golf resort, his Chicago skyscraper, and the Old Post Office renovation in Washington, DC, the banker testified.

Trump had ample collateral throughout the life of the loans, even after bankers adjusted his numbers steeply downward, he added, describing the so-called Trump "haircut" that the bank routinely applied to his net-worth estimates.

"We may have haircut these assets by 50 percent or more," the banker testified at one point, referring to fiscal year 2013. In that year, Trump's stated net worth was $4.9 billion, and his "haircut" worth, or what Deutsche Bank predicted he'd be worth in the case of a default, was only $2.6 billion.

On cross-examination, the rosy relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank took on a darker cast.

The banker conceded that just one week after the Trump Organization was charged with payroll tax fraud — a Manhattan case that resulted in its conviction — Deutsche Bank decided to end its ties to the former president.

"The decision was made by senior levels of bank management," Williams told Sherief Gaber, an assistant attorney general, of the 2020 breakup.

Gaber also got Williams to concede on cross something that should be obvious: that bank clients are expected to be truthful.

Still, once Williams stepped down from the witness stand, Trump's lead fraud-trial lawyer, Christopher Kise, made his second failed request of the judge to immediately call an end to the trial and rule in their favor.

"This is now the second Deutsche Bank witness to testify that there was no fraud," argued Kise in a call back to one of the state's own witnesses, a former banker who testified last month that Trump was never late making a loan payment.

"The attorney general can't say, 'I don't care what the bank thinks, I'm here to be their protector,'" Kise complained.

The lead lawyer for the attorney general's office, Kevin Wallace, responded by accusing Kise of misrepresenting the testimony.

"The witness did not say that none of this matters," he said angrily.

"The witness said that they expect their clients to tell the truth and not submit false statements," the state's lawyer argued, adding, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice, "I think the idea that you can't lie to a bank is pretty well established."

In turning down the defense's demand to stop the trial, the judge presiding over the non-jury trial, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, agreed, saying essentially that lies are lies and fraud is fraud, regardless of whether the victim feels lied to or defrauded.

"The mere fact that the lender was satisfied does not mean the statute wasn't violated," said the judge, who has already decided, based on the attorney general's three-year pre-trial investigation, that Deutsche Bank was defrauded by Trump.

Undaunted, Trump's side plans to continue Wednesday with direct examination of yet another Deutsche Bank official.

The attorney general's office is seeking at least $250 million in penalties and to permanently bar Trump and five long-standing executives, including his two eldest sons, from ever running a business in New York again.

The trial may extend into mid-December, with the defense planning to call Eric Trump back to the stand on December 6 and Donald Trump to the stand on December 11.

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