Officials cement plans for Monday's $250 million civil fraud trial against Trump
The judge on Tuesday canceled Trump's business certificates in New York.
Court officials are cementing plans to proceed with Monday's $250 million civil fraud trial against former President Donald Trump after attorneys for Trump and the New York attorney general's office hashed out some pretrial issues at a hearing Wednesday -- although lingering questions remain regarding the impact of Judge Arthur Engoron's sweeping ruling on Tuesday.
In a scathing order Tuesday, Engoron ordered the cancelation of the Trump Organization's business certificates in New York after finding that Trump and his co-defendants engaged in "persistent fraud" by inflating the value of his assets.
But the judge wrote that a trial was still required to decide six remaining causes of action alleged by Attorney General Letitia James, as well as the scope of the penalty, which could include barring Trump from making real estate acquisitions and applying for loans in New York.
"The contour of the case has changed significantly since yesterday," Engoron said at Wednesday's hearing, a day after handing down a partial summary judgment that severely restricts Trump's ability to conduct business in New York going forward.
With Tuesday's ruling effectively deciding the central issue of the attorney general's case, Trump attorney Chris Kise requested that the court clarify how the ruling would not only impact the trial, but also Trump's individual business entities.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but what in the court's mind does this trial now look like?" Kise asked the court.
In response, Engoron asked if the attorney general would consider dismissing the remaining causes of action to streamline the trial. A lawyer for attorney general responded that the government would still like to proceed with those arguments, citing their relevance to their requested relief.
"Two through seven are still in, so I don't know how to respond," Engoron said in response to Kise's request.
Kise also asked Engoron to confirm which of Trump's hundreds of business entities would be covered by Tuesday's ruling, which cancelled the business certificates for entities owned or controlled by the defendants.
"With all of these entities and all the employees of these entities, we just want to be sure we have some clear picture," Kise said.
Engoron did not issue a bench ruling or immediately respond to the question, instead punting the matter to a future private meeting between counsel.
Trump attorney Alina Habba described Engoron's ruling Tuesday as "nonsensical" and "outrageously overreaching," telling ABC News after Wednesday's hearing that the ruling leaves the defense uncertain about what the trial might entail.
"Nobody knows the scope of the case ... we weren't sure when we came in today whether it was summarily decided on all counts or not," Habba said.
Habba said that Trump's defense will have to "wait and see" how the ruling will impact the Monday trial date.
The attorney said Tuesday that Trump plans to immediately appeal what she called the judge's "fundamentally flawed" decision.
Also during Wednesday's hearing, Trump's attorneys and the government appeared to agree that a previously appointed independent monitor, Barbara Jones, should be named the independent receiver to manage the dissolution of the cancelled LLCs. Engoron said he would likely issue a ruling appointing Jones as the receiver.
Regarding a defense motion to limit the testimony of expert witnesses at trial, the defense said they plan to withdraw the motion without prejudice, leaving the parties to address issues with expert witnesses on a case-by-case basis.
Following the hearing, attorneys for defense and the attorney general met to decide the courtroom layout for opening statements on Monday.
Engoron wrote in Tuesday's order that Trump, his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., and the other defendants fraudulently inflated the value of properties including Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and his own triplex apartment in New York City, as well as 40 Wall Street, Trump Park Avenue, multiple golf courses, and an estate in upstate New York.
Responding to the order, Eric Trump, who runs the Trump Organization's day-to-day operations, said on X, previously known as Twitter, "We have run an exceptional company -- never missing a loan payment, making banks hundreds of millions of dollars, developing some of the most iconic assets in the world. Yet today, the persecution of our family continues..."
During a pretrial conference last week, Engoron expressed frustration at defense counsel for rehashing flawed arguments he had already ruled against, leading the judge yesterday to sanction five defense lawyers $7,500 each for reiterating "frivolous arguments."
Trump has been attempting to delay the start of the trial, and an appeals court is expected to rule on those motions as early as Thursday.