Trump’s New York fraud trial, now in its third week, skidded to a brief stop Wednesday morning.
A Trump attorney shouted “You lied yesterday!” while cross examining a key state’s witness.
Trump watched avidly as cross-accusations of perjury and witness-intimidation flew.
Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial came to a skidding halt Wednesday morning, when his lawyers accused a witness of lying on the stand and lawyers for the attorney general’s office shouted back that the witness was being intimidated.
“You lied, yesterday, didn’t you?” a lawyer for Trump’s side shouted at the witness, prompting five minutes of sometimes shouted cross-accusations of perjury, witness intimidation, and showboating for the press.
“Let’s calm down,” the judge told both sides, after asking that the witness – former outside Trump Organization appraiser Doug Larson – be escorted out.
The appraiser was accused of having lied the day before when he testified that he hadn’t discussed a particular way of setting a value to one of Trump’s skyscrapers back in 2013.
Trump himself, who is attending the trial, watched the ensuing drama avidly.
Minutes earlier, he had caused some tumult by reacting audibly to Larson’s testimony.
Trump could be heard whispering angrily to the lawyers on either side of him, and at one point hit the wooden defense table with both of his hands.
A lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James objected, without naming Trump, to the “exhortations” coming from the defense table.
That prompted the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron to ask, calmly, that there be no further exhortations, “particularly if it was meant to influence the testimony.”
The larger fireworks followed soon afterward.
Trump defense lawyer Lazaro Fields crossed examined Larson, who worked for the firm Cushman & Wakefield while conducting bank-ordered appraisals of Trump property.
Fields waved a hard copy of emails from 2013 in his hand. In the emails, former Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McConney and Larson exchanged market information concerning 40 Wall Street, a 70-story Manhattan skyscraper that Trump owns the land lease for.
Larson, who was appraising the building, had included capitalization rates in what he emailed McConney.
But on Tuesday, Larson had answered “No, I did not” when a lawyer for the AG asked “Did you work with Mr. McConney in 2013 to determine the cap rate that he used to value this property?”
This was a gotcha moment, Trump’s team clearly felt.
“You lied yesterday! Didn’t you!” Fields shouted at the appraiser, continuing to wave the stack of emails in his hand.
“I did not – that’s what I recall,” the appraiser struggled to answer, as more than one of the attorney general’s lawyers half rose from their seats to shout, “Objection!”
Before the judge could rule, Trump’s lead lawyer, Christopher Kise, stood up from his seat to Trump’s right, interrupting the exchange by insisting that the appraiser was in grave need of legal protection from a possible perjury charge.
“The witness has rights,” Kise insisted, as Trump watched avidly from the defense table.
“This is witness intimidation,” an assistant attorney general, Colleen K. Faherty, stood and shouted, interrupting the interruption.
“He has a right to consult with his counsel, your honor,” Kise countered, referring again to the witness’s legal rights. “I think he needs to be advised as to potential perjury.
“Officer,” the judge finally managed to say above the cross-talk. “Can you escort the witness out?”
The flummoxed-looking appraiser was led out by a court officer.
“Let’s all calm down,” the judge told the two sides. It didn’t work.
AG lawyers accuse Trump’s side of performing for the press
“He communicated with Mr. McConney about cap rates!” Kise complained, still standing and sounding outraged, as Trump nodded “Yes” at his side.
But just one day before, “He said ‘no, no, no, no no!’ Kise added, paraphrasing the appraiser. “He left a distinct impression with this court and in this room!”
Kise then proceeded to reaffirm his deep concern for the appraiser’s Fifth Amendment rights, and to strongly suggest the appraiser’s lawyer be called in.
That prompted another lawyer for the AG’s office, Kevin Wallace, to stand up, gesture to the audience behind him, and complain to the judge, “This is some kind of performance for the press that’s attending.”
Wallace continued, “If they’re impeaching his testimony, they can impeach his testimony” without threatening him with perjury and invoking his constitutional rights.
“I’m not the government,” Kise sniped back. “I take those rights seriously.”
“Whether they are concerned about his rights or not, I definitely am,” Kise added.
The judge wasn’t having any of it.
“My role here is to get witnesses to testify,” the judge said, interrupting a back-and-forth between Kise and Wallace over whether the press was, or was not, being performed for.
“Perjury or no perjury,” the judge said. “I don’t care. I just want them to testify and the fewer disruptions, the better.”
But for a brief moment, the appraiser’s lawyer needed to approach the bench and state on the record that her client was indeed being accused of perjury.
“So what?” the judge responded, still intent on resuming testimony. “If he perjured himself, he perjured himself.”
“If not, he has no problems,” the judge added with a smile. “Let’s continue with the questioning.”
Soon enough – this time with the alleged perjurous testimony highlighted on an overhead screen – the emails-waving Trump lawyer was back shouting, “You lied yesterday, Mr. Larson!”
After another denial by the appraiser, and another brief flurry of objections from both sides, the testimony continued.
“There has to be some kind of recourse for what just went on,” Trump told the cameras outside the courtroom, making a vague reference to the blow-up during a break. “We’ll go inside and watch the rest of it.”
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