Donald Trump will take the stand again at fraud trial

The former president is expected to return to the stand as the closing witness for the defence

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 28 November 2023 20:15 GMT
Related video: Trump enters his New York fraud trial on 6 November.

Donald Trump will return to the witness stand next month in his civil fraud trial in New York as the final witness for the defence in a case that threatens his brand-building real estate empire.

His son Eric Trump will also testify a second time as their attorneys begin to close their case.

Donald Trump Jr testified as the first witness for the defence earlier this month.

Eric Trump is scheduled to testify on 6 December, and his father is scheduled to appear on the witness stand on 11 December, according to lead attorney Christopher Kise.

On 6 November, the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination for president was among the closing witnesses for lawyers from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing Mr Trump, his two adult sons, their chief associates and the Trump Organization for defrauding banks and investors with grossly inflated statements of his financial condition.

Mr Trump’s oldest daughter Ivanka Trump, who successfully removed herself as a defendant from the lawsuit, was the last witness introduced by lawyers for Ms James’s office.

Judge Arthur Engoron already has found the defendants liable for fraud. The civil trial, now in its ninth week, could result in tens of millions of dollars in fines against them, and largely prohibit the Trumps from doing business in the state.

In his meandering testimony, Mr Trump lashed out at the attorney general, the judge overseeing the case, the trial itself and the lawyers who questioned him as he dodged responsibility for the allegedly fraudulent valuations of his net worth and assets.

Neither Mr Trump nor Eric Trump were cross-examined by their attorneys during their previous testimony.

State attorneys have argued that Mr Trump’s annual statements of financial condition – the documents at the heart of the case – included false or misleading valuations of the Trump Organization’s vast real estate portfolio and other assets that were then shared with banks, lenders and other institutions to gain more favourable financing terms.

Ms James’s lawsuit argues that Mr Trump fraudulently inflated his net worth by as much as $2.2bn in one year and by hundreds of millions of dollars in other years over a decade.

The trial has placed Mr Trump under a level of scrutiny that threatens to expose the narrative that built up his political persona as he campaigns for president once again while facing four criminal trials and several lawsuits. His attorneys have roundly rejected the premise of the lawsuit and have defended the Trump Organization’s business practises against what they believe is a politcally motivated stunt.

Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr claimed they had nothing to do with the creation of their father’s financial statements, while evidence reviewed at trial appeared to show they were involved with the information contained inside them. Mr Trump, meanwhile, claimed that those documents were not only unimportant to the banks and lenders who used them but that his net worth is actually much higher than what was reported.

The civil trial inside New York State Supreme Court will determine remaining claims in the lawsuit – including insurance fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy charges – and what penalties, if any, Mr Trump and his co-defendants will face.

Ms James is seeking at least $250m to recover ill-gotten gains, and to effectively block the Trumps from doing business in the state. The judge’s pretrial judgment ordered a receiver to take control of the Trumps’ properties, but an appeals court has frozen that decision, for now.

A parallel case is playing out in a state appeals court, after an appellate judge paused a gag order that blocked all parties in the trial from disparaging court staff, after Mr Trump lashed out at the court’s chief clerk.

Lawyers for the judge and attorney general last week argued that a gag order is necessary to protect the safety of the court’s staff, and a sworn statement from the court system’s top security official revealed that “hundreds of threats, disparaging and harassing comments and antisemitic messages” followed Mr Trump’s attacks.

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