Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Michael Cohen, the disgraced former lawyer for Donald Trump, testified in a New York courtroom Tuesday about how the former president used inflated financial statements to support claims about his net worth, win deals, and lower insurance premiums, as the two former partners faced-off for the first time in years.
"What is the highest price per square foot achieved in the city," Cohen testified, when asked about how Trump used "reverse engineering" to set the value of his assets. "We would use those numbers to inflate these numbers."
Cohen is a key witness in the penalty phase of the trial, which will determine the amount of damages Trump will pay in the $250 million civil fraud case.
Trump was found guilty in September of grossly exaggerating the value of his real estate assets. Judge Arthur Engoron issued a summary ruling that found Trump's real estate business enriched itself by inflating the value of his New York properties, including his hotels and golf clubs.
Trump, who continues to deny he did anything wrong, attended Tuesday's proceeding to hear Cohen's testimony. It was the first time the former partners have crossed paths in more than five years.
"It appears that I will be reunited with my old client @realDonaldTrump when I testify this Tuesday, October 24th at the @NewYorkStateAG civil fraud trial. See you there!" Cohen wrote Friday on social media.
During his testimony, Cohen described how Trump would allow only limited access for insurance companies to view his financial statements.
"About three quarters of the way through the meeting, Mr. Trump would then come in, and there would be an extended conversation about his net worth, and that he was richer than the insurance companies," Cohen testified, adding that Trump's last-minute appearance at meetings was pre-planned.
According to Cohen, Trump also used inflated financial statements to claim his net worth was "in excess of eight billion dollars" in order to get a line of credit for a 2014 bid to purchase the Buffalo Bills.
During cross-examination, Trump lawyer Chris Kise told the judge the defense will prove Cohen "is a serial liar, and he lied to his wife," adding "This witness is completely out of control."
Kise also chastised the New York attorney general's office for failing to notify defense attorneys until Saturday that at least four members from the office tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday.
"It's really hypocritical," Kise said, adding that withheld information on their health exposed his team and the leading Republican presidential candidate.
During a break in Tuesday's testimony, Trump told reporters Cohen's "record is a horrible one," and that "He is not a credible witness."
Cohen was originally scheduled to appear last week but his testimony was delayed to attend to a pre-existing medical condition.
Under the Sept. 26 ruling, all of Trump's New York business licenses were revoked, as well as those of his co-defendants, including his two sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., his longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg and his company, the Trump Organization.
Cohen, who was once one of Trump's most trusted aides, has admitted to being a central figure in Trump's illegal business schemes after spending a decade falsifying financial records before federal agents raided his New York home in April 2018.
Subsequently, Cohen cooperated with the investigation and took on a new role as chief witness against Trump following his own arrest and conviction for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and tax evasion, culminating in more than a year of imprisonment.
Testifying before the House Oversight Committee in 2019, Cohen said Trump consistently lied about the value of his New York real estate, which defrauded banks and insurers for years, prompting an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into Trump's holdings throughout the state.
Cohen was deposed ahead of the trial by prosecutors who presented portions of his sworn testimony during opening statements in late September before Engoron found Trump liable without a jury trial, citing overwhelming evidence in the case.
In a critical part of the deposition, Cohen said Trump "wanted to be higher on the Forbes list, and he then said, 'I'm actually not worth $6 billion. I'm worth 7. In fact, I think it's actually now worth 8, with everything that's going on,'" Cohen said, adding that he doctored Trump's assets alongside Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in August 2022.
Years before exposing Trump's fraudulent business dealings, Cohen described his unwavering loyalty to Trump, pledging to act against Trump's adversaries on the campaign trail and elsewhere.
"It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit," Cohen told ABC News in 2011. "If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished."
Tuesday's appearance comes as the trial has taken several unexpected turns.
Last week, the proceedings were briefly halted after one of Trump's lawyers accused a witness of lying, which triggered several minutes of shouting in the courtroom. Trump hit the defense table with both hands in an apparent moment of frustration with his legal team.
Two days later, Engoron fined Trump $5,000 for violating a gag order placed on him Oct. 3, prohibiting Trump from making any public remarks about the judge and his staff.
In April, Trump filed a $500 million lawsuit against Cohen, accusing his former "fixer" of false statements and breach of attorney-client privilege. Trump dismissed the action earlier this month.
Part of Cohen's 2018 conviction was related to illegal hush money paid to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump allegedly had a sexual encounter that threatened to upend his 2016 campaign for president. In that case, Trump will go on trial in early 2024 after pleading not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to repay Cohen hundreds of thousands of dollars off the books.
Trump is also scheduled to go on trial in New York on Jan. 15 in a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll, who seeks $10 million in damages from Trump, claiming he defamed her in 2019 when he denied raping her in the 1990s, saying she was "not my type."
Another three criminal cases related to classified documents and election interference are due to take place during the height of the 2024 campaign, in which Trump is seeking the Republican nomination for re-election.