Donald Trump Takes Witness Stand Downtown

By Erin Meyer on May 14, 2013 7:10pm 

 Donald Trump arrives at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse to testify in a civil case involving his Trump Tower on May 14, 2013 in Chicago. Jackie Goldberg, 87, has accused Trump of conning her during the purchase of two condo units in Trump Tower, a hotel and condo building which Trump developed along the Chicago River.
Donald Trump arrives at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse to testify in a civil case involving his Trump Tower on May 14, 2013 in Chicago. Jackie Goldberg, 87, has accused Trump of conning her during the purchase of two condo units in Trump Tower, a hotel and condo building which Trump developed along the Chicago River.
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Scott Olson/Getty Images

THE LOOP — Donald Trump told a civil jury in Chicago that he does not like to brag — but he "builds great buildings."

"I don't mean to be braggadocios," he said with unflapping confidence, as if seated in the "boardroom" on his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, rather than a courtroom.

Reality show host, one-time presidential hopeful and real estate titan, Trump took the stand Tuesday at the Dirksen Federal Court Building in a civil lawsuit dealing with the marketing of condo units at Trump International Hotel & Tower, his gleaming 92-story building in Chicago.

Trump, as head of the Trump organization, found himself on the hot seat Tuesday for allegedly shortchanging an elderly, prospective condo buyer in the tower.

According to court filings, an 87-year-old woman who purchased two hotel condos in the skyscraper at Wabash and the Chicago River claims to have been swindled.

Jacqueline Goldberg claims that profit-sharing from revenue generated by the hotel-condominium's grand ballroom, among other "common elements" in Trump's development, was originally part of the deal.

Goldberg put about $500,000 down as a deposit only to have executives renege on the terms of the agreement, she claims.

When Goldberg tried to walk away from the deal, the developer kept her deposit, attorney Shelly Kulwin said.

Trump, 66, is not named as an individual in the lawsuit. Still Kulwin spent a lot of time on Tuesday trying to establish The Donald "was personally and directly involved with everything." 

Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers tried to show he trusted most of the decisions about the operations of Trump Tower to his staff.

A former executive, Charles Reiss, said Trump left many of the big decisions regarding the Chicago tower to him, except when it came to selecting which image of Trump to use in marketing materials.

"I always cleared which photograph was selected of him," said Reiss, who split with the Trump organization several years ago in what was described as a less than "happy" ending.

Trump testified the Chicago project — "probably the most spectacular," he gushed — holds a special place in his extensive portfolio.

"I've built some great buildings," Trump said, noting that a travel magazine named the Chicago Trump Tower "the best hotel in North America."

"This was and is a very important project for me," Trump said. "It was one of the tallest buildings in the world. We wanted to do a really great job, and I think we did that."

On the witness stand Tuesday, Trump also managed to work the exact address of his New York tower into a handful of his responses.

"No. 1 Central Park West in New York," Trump said. "It was a tremendous success."

At times, Kulwin's examination of Trump turned argumentative.

"This is not a commercial," Kulwin said, cutting Trump off at one point. "He's giving speeches. He's not answering the question."

After almost an hour on the stand, Trump strutted out of the high-rise Downtown courthouse Tuesday evening with only a few words for the television cameras trained on him.

"I love Chicago. It went well. I love Chicago," he said with a wave.

He is expected to take the stand again Wednesday morning.

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