Donald Trump’s top aides considered boosting his net worth by adding a “presidential premium” of as much as 35% to his properties after he was elected to the White House in 2016, a Trump Organization Inc. employee testified Friday.
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump’s top aides considered boosting his net worth by adding a “presidential premium” of as much as 35% to his properties after he was elected to the White House in 2016, a Trump Organization Inc. employee testified Friday.
The premium was calculated in internal documents, but it never ended up in the company’s statements of financial condition, Patrick Birney, a Trump Organization vice president, said during the trial of New York state’s civil fraud lawsuit against the former president.
Draft versions of financial statements entered into evidence show Trump employees considered adding a “presidential premium” of 15% to 35%, with one spreadsheet describing his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida’s Palm Beach as the “presidential winter residence.”
During earlier trial testimony, which began last week, two other Trump Organization executives testified they already were including in their financial statements Trump “brand premiums” of as much as 30% on some assets, including his golf courses — a practice they said began around 2013.
After Trump won the election, Birney said his bosses, longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and former comptroller Jeffrey McConney, considered adding a “presidential premium,” but later decided not to include it.
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The trial is over remaining claims in a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She alleges Trump inflated the value of his assets by billions of dollars a year to dupe banks into giving him better terms on loans. Trump denies wrongdoing, though the judge in the case has already found him liable for fraud.
Eric Haren, an attorney for the state, asked Birney who directed him to prepare the calculations on the presidential premium.
“I don’t really remember, but probably Allen Weisselberg,” he said.
Evidence presented in court Friday showed employees discussed boosting the value of Trump’s assets starting in 2017, just after Forbes Magazine reported that the true size of his triplex apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was 11,000 square feet and not the 30,000 square feet he claimed. According to James, by claiming the apartment was bigger than it was, Trump inflated its value to $327 million from $80 million.
Birney also testified he “Google searched” comparable New York properties to try to calculate the value of the Trump’s iconic penthouse, saying he later found an article about a 23,000-square-foot Manhattan “quadplex” off Central Park which billionaire Ken Griffin bought for in 2019.
Trump, who attended the first three days of the trial last week, is planning to return to court when former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testifies, people familiar with the matter said.
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