CHICAGO – A scowling Donald Trump raised his voiced on the witness stand Wednesday while an attorney grilled him and then rolled his eyes at the “Apprentice” star’s answers, leading a federal judge to scold both men in open court and order them to behave.
The admonition came during Trump’s second day on the stand at a civil trial where he is accused of making false promises to an 87-year-old investor to get her to purchase 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 said, scolding Trump and plaintiff’s attorney Shelly Kulwin. “This is not a boxing match.
“Let’s get control of ourselves,” the judge added before a brief recess.
Aggressive questioning on Wednesday focused on what Trump knew and when regarding the alleged bait-and-switch in which a profit-sharing plan was promised to Jacqueline Goldberg but withdrawn after she agreed to buy two condos.
The testimony offered a rare inside look at the management style of the 66-year-old Trump, 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.
A central issue at the trial is whether Trump himself plotted from the start of the tower’s development in the early 2000s to entice investors with a profit-sharing plan — fully intending to cancel the offer after they put their money down.
On the stand, Trump portrayed himself as a big-picture guy who delegated others.
“I don’t run hotels — I build them,” he said.
The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by Goldberg, who agreed in 2006 to buy two condos for around $1 million apiece at the 92-story luxury building; it opened in 2009. She seeks the return of a $500,000 deposit and other unspecified damages.
With Goldberg sitting nearby, Trump accused her of agreeing to a buyers’ contract that gave Trump rights to cancel the profit-sharing offer as he saw fit. Even though she knew that clause was there, he said, she went ahead and bought 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.
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.”
Follow Michael Tarm at http://www.twitter.com/mtarm .