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Analysis: Something you shouldn't miss in the New York lawsuit



CNN
 — 

Amid the 200-plus page lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Donald Trump this week, one allegation comes bursting through: The former president is simply not as rich as he has long said he is.

Consider:

* Trump estimated that his triplex unit in Trump Tower was more than 30,000 square feet and was worth $327 million at one point. The apartment, according to James’ suit, was 11,000 square feet. And she noted that no apartment in the history of New York real estate has ever sold for that sort of sum.

* Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was valued as high as $739 million, but should have been, according to James, assessed more in the $75 million range.

* Trump’s property on Park Avenue was assessed in 2010 as worth $72.5 million, but Trump’s company claimed in financial statements that it was worth $292 million, the lawsuit stated.

It goes on like that, but you get the idea. Time and again, according to James’ lawsuit, Trump vastly exaggerated the value of his properties in order to gain favorable loan terms on other properties – many of which he then made a profit on.

This would fit into a pattern in Trump’s life.

“I mean, part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich,” Trump told ABC way back in 2012. “So if I need $600 million, I can put $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage. I must tell you, that’s a huge advantage over the other candidates.”

Just before he started running for president, Trump released a “Statement of Financial Condition” from 2014 that said he was worth $5.8 billion. But when he announced his candidacy in 2015, he said that same statement put his net worth at $8.7 billion. “I’m really rich,” Trump said in his announcement speech. “I’m not doing that to brag. I’m doing that to show that’s the kind of thinking our country needs.”

A month after he entered the race, his campaign revised that estimate upward again.

“Real estate values in New York City, San Francisco, Miami and many other places where he owns property have gone up considerably during this period of time,” read a statement from his campaign. “His debt is a very small percentage of value, and at very low interest rates. As of this date, Mr. Trump’s net worth is in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.”

It’s decidedly difficult to know exactly what Trump is worth because he has never released his tax returns or other detailed financial information that would allow us to make that determination.

Forbes, which closely tracks the wealth of the country’s richest people, said earlier this year that Trump is worth $3 billion – up from $2.4 billion during his final year as president.

As Forbes wrote in April:

“Donald Trump, master of reinvention, has a new title: tech entrepreneur. It’s a stretch for [Trump], who doesn’t even use email, preferring instead to scrawl notes in marker. But he doesn’t mind jumping into ventures in which he has little previous experience – and this gig should prove far more lucrative than the presidency. In fact, it has already boosted his net worth by $430 million.”

The reality is – and has always been – that Trump is very rich. But not nearly as rich as he has claimed to be. It is the prime example of the “truthful hyperbole” that Trump laid out way back in the late 80s in his book “The Art of the Deal.”

“People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” he wrote. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”

It is also true that much of Trump’s self-definition is tied up in being extremely rich. Which means that Wednesday was a tough day for the billionaire businessman.

As New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted: “Whatever the outcome of the James case, a day in which a prosecutor declared at a press conference that Trump isn’t worth what he claims is a day he’s tried to avoid for decades.”

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