Donald Trump to take the stand in New York fraud trial

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Former President Donald Trump is expected to be called to the stand Monday in his family’s New York fraud trial — a moment years in the making.

The investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, first became public in 2020, when his son Eric Trump unsuccessfully fought a subpoena. Two years later, James’ office filed a $250 million lawsuit accusing Trump, the Trump Organization, and several executives including his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., of a yearslong fraud scheme. They have denied wrongdoing, and Trump has repeatedly accused James of pursuing him for political reasons.

Trump is accused in the civil suit of being the primary beneficiary of a scheme to fraudulently portray his wealth as far greater than it is, and his properties as far more valuable, in order to get undeservedly favorable loan and insurance terms. The judge in the case has already found Trump, his two adult sons and their company liable for fraud, determining that the scheme led to hundreds of millions in unearned profits.

The trial is continuing over other allegations, including falsification of business records, conspiracy and insurance fraud, as well as disgorgement — the exact amount of “ill-gotten gains” the Trumps must pay the state. 

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump both testified in the case last week, and Ivanka Trump is scheduled to take the stand on Wednesday. She had originally been named in the lawsuit as well, but the claims against her were thrown out on appeal due to the statute of limitations.

Though this will be Trump’s first testimony related to fraud during the trial, it will not be his first time in the courtroom nor his first testimony. The last time Trump was in the room, on Oct. 25, Judge Arthur Engoron ordered him to the stand to determine if Trump had violated a limited gag order in the case earlier in the day, when Trump appeared to reference the judge’s clerk while talking to the press.

Trump had previously been barred from speaking publicly about court staff after making a derogatory social media post about the same clerk. Engoron, with his clerk sitting just to his right, as she almost always is in court, questioned Trump, who had said the judge was “with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him.”

Trump and his legal team claimed Trump was referring to another key witness in the case, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who had been on the stand that day. Engoron found Trump “not credible” and fined him $10,000, on top of a previous $5,000 fine.

James’ investigation began after Cohen testified to Congress in 2019 that he had personal knowledge of Trump inflating his wealth for banks, and decreasing valuations for tax purposes.

Cohen took the stand earlier in the trial and testified that Trump’s three eldest adult children were occasionally involved in preparing Trump’s annual statements of financial conditions — documents with falsified data that are at the center of the fraud case. The testimony drew a reaction of disbelief from Trump, who threw his hands in the air and shook his head. Under cross-examination, Cohen admitted to previously lying under oath on more than one occasion.

The lawsuit is seeking $250 million and sanctions designed to limit the Trumps’ ability to do business in New York, including permanently barring Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any business in the state.

Trump and his company have for more than a year blamed their former outside accountants, Mazars USA, for any inaccuracies in their statements. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump reiterated that defense in testimony last week, saying they “trusted” internal and external accounting teams.

But their former Mazars accountant, Donald Bender, testified in October that his firm merely compiled reams of financial information provided to them by the Trumps and their company.

Trump attended Bender’s testimony as well, sitting perhaps 20 feet from James, whom he rarely appeared to acknowledge.

But just outside the courtroom, Trump accused James, a Democrat, of a “witch hunt” — repeating a claim he has made frequently about her pursuit of the case. 

Standing in the same spot outside the courtroom on Oct. 4, James accused Trump of turning the proceedings into a “show.”

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