Former President Donald Trump’s defense team is shifting the focus of their strategy to scrutinize the role of Mazars USA LLP, an external accounting firm, in the civil fraud trial threatening Trump’s real estate empire.
The trial centers on allegations by New York Attorney General Letitia James that Trump, his company, and top executives manipulated asset values to exaggerate wealth on financial statements.
On Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers delved into Mazars’ practices, presenting expert testimony from Jason Flemmons, a former federal financial regulator. Flemmons questioned Mazars’ procedures and cast doubt on earlier testimony from retired Mazars partner Donald Bender, who claimed to have requested all property appraisals from a Trump Organization executive.
Flemmons argued that such diligence is not required under professional accounting standards for financial statement compilations, emphasizing that Mazars’ role involved a “much lighter touch” than rigorous audits. He contended that the obligation to request appraisals not used as the basis for values on the statements did not exist.
The defense aims to counter the state’s claims that Trump executives employed various methods, potentially misclassifying properties, to inflate values. The trial alleges that Trump overstated his net worth and property values by billions on financial statements submitted to secure loans and business deals.
Mazars, which severed ties with Trump last year, faces scrutiny over the accuracy of Trump’s financial statements. Flemmons’ testimony echoes Trump’s argument that disclaimers on the statements shield him from liability for any discrepancies or misstatements.
Despite previous court rulings against Trump, including a fraud determination by Judge Arthur Engoron, Trump maintains his innocence. The defense contends that even if some properties were overvalued, others were undervalued, balancing out any potential misstatements.
The trial continues with Trump’s legal team working to counter the state’s claims of financial manipulation, seeking to protect the former president’s assets and reputation.