Trump minced words during a pivotal moment of his New York bank fraud trial on Monday, claiming that the language used in Mar-a-Lago’s deed from 2002 wasn’t binding.
The “deed of development rights” outlines that “the Club and Trump intend to forever extinguish their right to develop or use the Property for any purpose other than club use”—but according to Trump, that doesn’t mean the language is legally binding.
“‘Intend’ doesn’t mean we will do it,” he specified.
The trial, which has already determined that Trump and his two sons committed fraud, hinges on whether the former president defrauded banks by overestimating the value of Mar-a-Lago as well as a handful of other properties in New York and around the world.
According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump’s valuation of the Florida property, which was at times as high as $739 million, violated deed restrictions as the overinflated estimate was on the basis that it could be sold as a private residence.
His continued residence at the estate, which he has listed as his official residence since decamping from the White House in 2021, also breaches the property contract, according to the attorney general office’s lawyers.
As it stands, the deed prevents the construction of new buildings and any renovations to the property that would make Mar-a-Lago habitable for a single family, MSNBC reported.
Trump insisted that nothing had been done to the property in that regard but did admit that he received tax benefits due to the estate’s status as a club rather than a residential property.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the counterparty to the deed easement, will likely have a different legal position as to whether Trump can just change his mind on the binding nature of the legal document, according to NBC News’s Lisa Rubin.
“I don’t mind leaving it as a club. In fact, if somebody wanted it, smartest thing to do, have a club and have one member and that would be the member that lives in the club. But it’s much more valuable—and we’ll show that in two weeks or five weeks or nine weeks or whenever this thing goes—that its biggest value is using it as a club,” Trump said.