The civil fraud case against Donald Trump appears to have unraveled after the court finally heard from the so-called "victims" of Trump's alleged scheme.
Representatives of Deutsche Bank told judge Arthur Engoron, of New York, that Trump was a coveted client - a "whale" who brought in huge profits.
In other words, it appears there was no victim, and no fraud to speak of.
The prosecution narrative is that Trump inflated his assets to defraud lenders.
Trump and his lawyers have emphasized that Trump's financial statements came with "buyer beware" disclaimers, and in any case, no banks have complained of being victimized. In court, representatives from Deutsche Bank appeared to back up Trump's argument.
Deutsche Bank Managing Director David Williams said the bank performed its own checks of clients' estimates, which were assumed to be "subjective," echoing Trump's argument that valuing property is not an exact science.
“I think we expect clients’ provided information to be accurate,” Williams said. “At the same time, it’s not an industry standard that these statements be audited," he said.
The bank's documents show they were excited to work with Trump, who brought $6 million in revenue within two years.
Trump's lawyers presented a 2011 email from Deutsche Bank managing director Rosemary Vrablic, who testified Wednesday.
"We are whale hunting," she wrote to her colleagues at the bank after a meeting with Donald Jr.
Prior to a lunch with Trump in 2013, the bank made it a mission to "strategically discuss leveraging Mr. Trump’s personal and professional network within the real estate industry in NY."
From the stand, Vrablic recalled: “It was a very, very nice, productive lunch."
Despite seeming to exonerate Trump, the testimony did not appear to move the judge.
"I would point out that the mere fact that the lenders were happy doesn’t mean that the statute wasn’t violated, doesn’t mean that the other statutes weren’t violated,” he said.
Engoron has fined Trump $15,000 for violating a gag order. Trump has repeatedly accused the judge of showing political bias.
It's unclear what, if any, evidence the judge would have to see to change his mind.
The purpose of the trial is to determine Trump's penalty. Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general who brought the case, wants to fine Trump $250 million and ban him from doing business in New York.
He is expected to testify on December 11 before the defense wraps up its case.