Michael Cohen said he had a “heck of a reunion” Tuesday with his former boss Donald Trump when he testified against the former president at his New York civil fraud trial.
With Trump sitting feet away, Trump’s one-time lawyer and fixer described how he manipulated Trump’s financial statements – “reverse-engineering” them to hit an arbitrary net worth. Cohen explained how he would inflate the value of Trump’s properties along with the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer.
Once Trump’s lawyer began questioning Cohen, things quickly got heated, as he sneered at the questions and loudly objected to one line of questioning.
Cohen said that he and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg would manipulate Trump’s financial statements, the documents at the center of the civil fraud trial, based on what Trump wanted his net worth to reflect.
“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected and my responsibility along with Allen Weisselberg predominantly was to reverse engineer the various different assets classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”
Asked what numbers they would hit, Cohen said, “Whatever number Mr. Trump told us to.”
Cohen explained that when Trump would look at the financial statements, he would “look at the total assets and he would say ‘I’m actually not worth 4.5 billion, I’m really worth more like six.’ He would then direct Allen and I to go back to Allen’s office and return after we achieved the desired goal.”
Looking at Trump’s 2012 statement of financial condition, Cohen said he recalled inflating assets including Trump Tower, Trump Park Ave., Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza, the commercial side of 100 Central Park South, the Mansion at Seven Springs, the Miss Universe Pageants and “possibly others.”
Cohen said that they would look at numbers “being achieved elsewhere” in New York and recalculate valuations using real estate as “comparables” that were achieving the highest prices per square foot in the city, even though those properties had different amenities from Trump’s assets. Those other properties would have different ceiling heights, unobstructed views, and were not inhibited by rent control, for instance.
“You could call them comparable, but comparable would imply that they are similar,” Cohen said.