The former president and his attorneys, who appeared in court for the first day of trial on Monday, have argued that no one was harmed by his inflated financial statements because banks that loaned him money were fully repaid.
“Legally, it’s irrelevant,” Weissmann said. “That is just not a defense to the six counts that are under trial.”
Trump has already been found guilty on the key claim in the $250 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The judge overseeing the case ruled ahead of trial that Trump committed fraud by deceiving banks, insurers and others by exaggerating his wealth to obtain more favorable deals and loan terms.
The trial will determine if Trump is liable for the other counts and what the penalties will be.
Weissmann noted that the financial information people provide to banks helps determine both the loan size and the rates charged.
“So, whether you ultimately pay it back ― that’s not your call. The issue is whether the bank would be willing to give you the loan for the size and at what rate,” he said.
He also pointed out that a judge, not a jury, will decide the trial’s outcome.
“The judge is not in any way, shape or form going to buying off on something that is just not a legal defense,” he said.
On Monday, Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said Trump’s valuations were legitimate and his properties would fetch top dollar prices if he sold them. “That is not fraud. That is real estate,” she said.
Trump has also argued that what he wrote on his financial statements doesn’t matter because they had a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted.
Watch Weissmann’s explainer on MSNBC below.