Before former President Donald Trump appeared in court Tuesday for the second day of his civil fraud trial in New York, he claimed on social media that it has now “been agreed in Court that Mar-a-Lago is WORTH 50 to 100 times the Value” New York Attorney General Letitia James had ascribed to it, $18 million.
Trump was claiming, therefore, that the court had agreed the Florida property is worth $900 million to $1.8 billion.
Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. There has been no such agreement in court. Judge Arthur Engoron and a lawyer for James’ office did not endorse a Trump lawyer’s Monday claim in court that Mar-a-Lago could be sold for more than $1 billion.
In Engoron’s decision last week finding Trump liable for fraud, he wrote that “from 2011-2021, the Palm Beach County Assessor appraised the market value of Mar-a-Lago at between $18 million and $27.6 million.”
He also noted that there are significant land use restrictions attached to the property, and he wrote that Trump’s financial statements, valuing Mar-a-Lago at roughly $426.5 million to $612.1 million between 2011 and 2021, are “materially false and misleading” because they don’t reflect those restrictions.
Trump lawyer Alina Habba sharply disputed this conclusion in court on Monday, saying that “we have experts, renowned experts, who have said that properties like Mar-a-Lago are worth over a billion dollars, $1.5 billion, and I assure you that there is a person out there that would buy that property, that spectacular property, for way over a billion dollars."
Trump and his team are entitled to argue that the judge’s analysis is inaccurate. But Trump himself was wrong to suggest that the judge had agreed in court that Mar-a-Lago is worth even more than his financial statements claimed. The judge did nothing of the sort.
Engoron noted again in court on Monday that there were “significant” limitations on how the property can be used, and he said he had “specifically said” in the decision last week that “I'm not valuing or evaluating properties.”
He said, “Please, press, stop saying that I valued it at $18 million. That was a tax assessment. Or, something in that range. There would have been issues of fact as to what the value was.”