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Donald Trump is going back to court. Here’s what he’s missed since his last visit to NYC fraud trial

by Joshua Brown
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Civil Fraud Trial

Donald Trump is once again entering the courtroom for his New York civil fraud trial, a high-stakes legal battle that has garnered significant attention. However, this time, there won’t be an immediate face-off between Trump and his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who is a crucial witness in the case. Cohen has postponed his testimony due to a health issue, with the earliest possible date for his testimony now set for October 23, as ruled by Judge Arthur Engoron.

Cohen’s absence has disrupted the trial’s schedule, compelling the New York attorney general’s office to accelerate the appearance of other witnesses. This unexpected turn of events has momentarily robbed the proceedings of the anticipated drama surrounding a Cohen-Trump confrontation.

The lawsuit at the heart of this trial originated from a 2022 filing by New York Attorney General Letitia James. It alleges that Trump and top executives at the Trump Organization engaged in a conspiracy to inflate Trump’s net worth by billions of dollars on financial statements provided to banks and insurers, a strategy used to facilitate deals and secure loans.

Some of the allegations include Trump significantly exaggerating the size and value of his Trump Tower penthouse and inflating the worth of his Mar-a-Lago estate based on an unrealistic residential development possibility, which was prohibited by deed terms. James’ office estimates that Trump may have exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion.

The list of defendants in this case is extensive and includes Trump, his company, top executives such as Eric and Donald Trump Jr., and various corporate entities through which Trump owns properties like the Doral golf resort in Miami, a Chicago hotel and condo skyscraper, a Wall Street office building, and a sizable estate near New York City.

Trump vehemently denies any wrongdoing, asserting that disclaimers on his financial statements absolve him of liability and that the actual values of some of his assets surpass what’s listed in the documents. He has characterized the case as a “sham” and “scam” and as part of what he calls “the single greatest witch hunt of all time.”

The legal foundation for this case lies in New York’s Executive Law 63(12), which grants broad powers to the state’s attorney general to investigate persistent fraud and illegality in business dealings. Penalties can include revoking business licenses and recovering ill-gotten gains.

The trial has already seen eight witnesses, including Trump Organization insiders, accountants who prepared Trump’s financial statements, and a retired Deutsche Bank official who testified that these statements played a crucial role in securing loans for Trump. Notably, some witnesses have acknowledged inaccuracies in Trump’s financial statements.

The trial does not involve a jury but rather a bench trial presided over by Judge Arthur Engoron, who has been involved in resolving disputes related to Trump and James in the past. The judge’s ruling will ultimately decide the outcome of the case.

In a previous ruling, Engoron found that Trump had committed years of fraud by inflating asset values in his financial statements. However, an appeals court has temporarily blocked the enforcement of certain aspects of that ruling.

It’s essential to clarify that this civil trial is not a criminal case; Trump faces separate criminal charges in Manhattan, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. These criminal cases are distinct from the civil fraud trial currently underway.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Civil Fraud Trial

What is the nature of Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York?

Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York centers on allegations that he and top executives at the Trump Organization conspired to inflate his net worth by billions of dollars on financial statements provided to banks and insurers. This was done to facilitate business deals and secure loans.

Who are the key defendants in this trial?

The primary defendants in the case include Donald Trump himself, his company, and top executives, notably his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. Corporate entities through which Trump owns various properties are also named in the lawsuit.

What are the specific allegations against Donald Trump in this trial?

The allegations against Donald Trump primarily revolve around exaggerating the size and value of his assets, such as his Trump Tower penthouse and Mar-a-Lago estate. It is estimated that he may have inflated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion in total.

What is the significance of Michael Cohen’s involvement in this trial?

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, is a key witness in the case. He has postponed his testimony due to a health issue, which has disrupted the trial schedule. Cohen’s testimony is expected to be crucial in establishing the allegations against Trump.

How has the trial progressed so far?

The trial is in its third week, with multiple witnesses, including Trump Organization insiders and accountants, having already testified. Some witnesses have acknowledged inaccuracies in Trump’s financial statements. The trial is expected to continue into December.

What is the role of Judge Arthur Engoron in this trial?

Judge Arthur Engoron presides over this bench trial, as it does not involve a jury. He will issue a ruling once the trial concludes. Engoron has been involved in previous disputes related to Trump and the attorney general’s investigation.

Is this a criminal case against Donald Trump?

No, this civil fraud trial is not a criminal case. Donald Trump faces separate criminal charges in Manhattan, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. These criminal cases are distinct from the civil fraud trial currently underway in New York.

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