Trump returns to civil fraud trial in New York as testimony nears end

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump returned to his civil trial for corporate fraud as a spectator on Thursday, after a month of attacking the process from afar.

As testimony was coming to a close after more than two months, the front-runner 2024 Republican presidential candidate showed up in court to watch an accounting professor testify about financial issues important to the case.

Trump himself is scheduled to take the stand on Monday for the second time.

Even as he campaigns to regain the presidency and fights four criminal cases, Trump is devoting close attention to the New York lawsuit. He has been a frustrated bystander, a conflicted witness and a heated commentator outside the courtroom door.

“This is a witch hunt and a very corrupt trial,” Trump said on his way to court Thursday.

The case is putting his net worth to the test, scrutinizing the real estate empire that built his reputation and threatening to prevent him from doing business in his home state.

The lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses Trump, his company and some executives of deceiving banks and insurers by presenting them with financial statements full of inflated values ​​of iconic assets such as his Trump Tower penthouse and Mar- a-Lago, the Florida club where he now lives. Statements were provided to help secure deals, including loans at attractive interest rates available to the very wealthy and some loans required updated statements each year.

Trump denies any wrongdoing and claims that the figures in the statements do not actually match his wealth. He also downplayed the importance of the documents in getting deals, saying it was clear that lenders and others would have to do their own analysis. And he claims the case is a partisan abuse of power by James and Judge Arthur Engoron, both Democrats.

Thursday’s witness, New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov, appeared in Trump’s defense. In a report prepared before his testimony, Bartov disputed the attorney general’s allegations that Trump’s financial statements violated basic accounting rules.

The professor added that in the accounting and financial world, recipients see these statements only as a starting point for conducting their own analyses.

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Trump has regularly criticized the case on his Truth Social platform.

His extrajudicial comments earned him a $10,000 fine on Oct. 26, when Engoron decided that Trump had violated a gag order prohibiting trial participants from making public comments about court staff. Trump’s lawyers are appealing that order.

James has not let Trump go unanswered; Often, but not on Thursday, she appears in court herself when he is there and makes her own comments about her on social media and on the courthouse steps. Lawyers in the case have been told not to make statements to the press in the hallway, but the former president has been allowed to do so.

“Here’s a fact: Donald Trump has been involved in years of financial fraud. Here’s another fact: When the law is broken, there are consequences,” his office wrote this week on X, formerly Twitter.

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A three-judge panel ruled that former President Trump is not immune from civil lawsuits stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.

While the bench trial is airing allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsification of business records, Engoron ruled in advance that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud. He ordered a receiver to take control of some of Trump’s properties, but an appeals court has postponed that order for now.

At trial, James seeks more than $300 million in fines and a ban on Trump and other defendants from doing business in New York.

It is unclear exactly when the testimony will conclude, but it is expected to be before Christmas. Closing arguments are scheduled for January and Engoron expects to make a decision by the end of that month.

2023-12-07 21:29:37
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