Donald Trump completes testimony in Chicago trial
CHICAGO (AP) — A scowling Donald Trump raised his voice on the witness stand Wednesday while an attorney grilled him and then rolled his eyes at the “Apprentice” star’s answers, prompting a federal judge to scold both men in open court and order them to behave.
The admonition came during Trump’s second and final day on the stand at a civil trial where he is accused of making false promises to an investor to lure her into purchasing condos at his glitzy Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.
“You have been dancing around and boxing each other,” U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve told Trump and plaintiff’s attorney Shelly Kulwin. “You’ve got to stop it.”
“Let’s get control of ourselves,” she added before a brief recess.
After cooling down during the final minutes of his testimony, Trump heated back up as he spoke to reporters on his way out of the Chicago courthouse.
“This is a disgrace,” Trump said, blasting the 87-year-old investor whose lawsuit led to this week’s trial. “She’s trying to rip me off.”
Jacqueline Goldberg’s suit claims Trump carried out a bait-and-switch in which a profit-sharing plan was promised then withdrawn after she agreed to buy two condos for around $1 million apiece at the 92-story luxury building; it opened in 2009.
After court adjourned Wednesday, Kulwin responded to Trump’s claim that he, not Goldberg, is the victim.
“The notion is ludicrous,” he told reporters.
The aggressive questioning of Trump on the stand Wednesday offered a rare inside look at the management style of the 66-year-old, known for scrutinizing the competence of contestants on his “Apprentice” TV show and then firing them.
Pressed over and over, the real estate magnate insisted he couldn’t remember just when key business decisions were made or by whom, or even if he was present — telling jurors neither he nor his top executives made a habit of taking notes.
“We get things done. We don’t write about it,” he said.
What Trump knew and when is key to the case because he is accused of spearheading a strategy of enticing investors with a profit-sharing plan — fully intending to cancel the offer after they put their money down.
But on the stand, Trump portrayed himself as a big-picture guy who delegated to others.
“I don’t run hotels — I build them,” he said.
With Goldberg sitting nearby as Trump testified, he accused her of agreeing to a buyers’ contract giving him rights to cancel the profit-sharing offer. Even though she knew that clause was there, he said, she pushed ahead with the condos anyway.
“And then she sued me,” he boomed, raising his arms. “It’s unbelievable!” The judge told jurors to disregard Trump’s statement.
Trump told jurors there are always unanticipated conditions in such enormous projects that later force developers to adjust.
“In this case, a catastrophe happened: It’s called a depression,” he said, referring to the 2008 financial crisis.
Goldberg is seeking the return of a $500,000 deposit and other unspecified damages, including profit she would have made had Trump stuck to the original offer.
It took Trump and the plaintiff’s attorney just minutes to clash as testimony started Wednesday morning. Kulwin complained that Trump, a New Yorker, kept rushing to answer questions before he had completed them.
“We’re in Chicago,” the attorney snapped at Trump. “We go a little slower here.”
In all, Kulwin questioned Trump for about five hours over two days, with the famously verbose TV host often going off on tangents.
The cross-examination by Trump’s own lawyer lasted only a couple minutes, however, with Stephen Novack asking his client if he ever dangled the promise of profit sharing knowing he would renege on it later.
“Absolutely not,” Trump said.
Goldberg is scheduled to be the last witness to take the stand in the trial, which began Tuesday and was expected to last about a week.
Follow Michael Tarm at http://www.twitter.com/mtarm .