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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.
Former President 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 New York 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 heated 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 — Doug Larson, a former outside appraiser for the Trump Organization — be escorted out.
The appraiser was accused of having lied the day before, when he testified that back in 2013, he'd never had a discussion with a Trump executive about a particular way of setting a value to one of Trump's skyscrapers.
Trump himself, who's attending the trial, watched the ensuing drama avidly.
He appeared to be following the appraiser's testimony closely, and minutes earlier he had caused some tumult by audibly reacting. Trump could be heard whispering angrily to the lawyers on either side of him. At one point, he hit the wooden defense table with both of his hands.
A lawyer for Letitia James, the state attorney general, objected, without naming Trump, to the "exhortations" coming from the defense table.
That prompted the judge, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, to ask that there be no further exhortations, "particularly if it was meant to influence the testimony."
The larger fireworks followed soon afterward.
Lazaro Fields, one of Trump's defense lawyers, cross-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, Jeffrey McConney, a former Trump Organization comptroller, and Larson exchanged market information concerning 40 Wall St., a 70-story Manhattan skyscraper that Trump owns the land lease for.
Larson, who was appraising the building, had included capitalization rates in market data he emailed to McConney.
But on Tuesday, Larson had answered, "No, I did not," when a lawyer for the attorney general 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 seemed to feel.
"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 answered, 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 perjury charge.
"The witness has rights," Kise said, as Trump watched intently.
The AG's side was highly skeptical of this sudden display of concern for their witness's rights. "This is witness intimidation," an assistant attorney general, Colleen K. Faherty, protested, standing.
"He has a right to consult with his counsel, your honor," Kise persisted, referring again to the AG witness' right to consult, immediately, with an attorney. "I think he needs to be advised as to potential perjury."
"Officer," the judge finally said 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, Kise continued, paraphrasing the appraiser's earlier testimony, "he said, 'No, no, no, no, no.' He left a distinct impression with this court and in this room."
The appraiser was a key witness for the other side. But Kise persisted in defending the appraiser's Fifth Amendment rights and strongly suggested the appraiser's lawyer be called in.
That prompted another lawyer for the attorney general's office, Kevin Wallace, to stand up, gesture to the audience behind him, and say to the judge, "This is some kind of performance for the press that's attending."
Wallace added, "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 responded. "I take those rights seriously, he said. "Whether they are concerned about his rights or not, I definitely am."
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."
First, though, the appraiser's lawyer was allowed to approach the bench to note, on the record, that her client had indeed just been accused of perjury.
"So what?" the judge said, still intent on resuming testimony. "If he perjured himself, he perjured himself."
The judge added with a smile: "If not, he has no problems. Let's continue with the questioning."
Soon enough — this time with the appraiser's previous day's testimony highlighted on an overhead screen — the emails-waving Trump lawyer was back to shouting, "You lied yesterday, Mr. Larson."
After another denial by the appraiser, and another 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 during a break, making a vague reference to the blowup. "We'll go inside and watch the rest of it."
Read the original article on Business Insider