Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York in a $250 million civil lawsuit that could alter the personal fortune and real estate empire that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Trump, his sons Eric Trump and and Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump Organization executives are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James of engaging in a decade-long scheme in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. The trial comes after the judge in the case ruled in a partial summary judgment that Trump had submitted "fraudulent valuations" for his assets, leaving the trial to determine additional actions and what penalty, if any, the defendants should receive.
The former president has denied all wrongdoing and his attorneys have argued that Trump's alleged inflated valuations were a product of his business skill.
- Judge says he'll 'rigorously' enforce limited gag order
- Deutsche Bank made money from Trump, defense emphasizes
- Trump's disclaimer told bankers to 'beware,' expert says
- Trump distances himself from preparation of statements
- Trump's misrepresentations cost banks $168M, expert testifies
- Trump, after testifying, fined $10,000 for violating gag order
- Trump tax rep acknowledged much lower value for Mar-a-Lago
Trump wants to appeal gag order in his civil trial, again
Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking to appeal last week’s decision reinstating the gag orders in the former president’s civil fraud trial.
New York’s Appellate Division First Department vacated a temporary stay of the gag orders last week, and Trump’s lawyers are now seeking expedited leave to appeal the decision to New York’s Court of Appeals – the highest court in the New York State system.
Trump’s lawyers requested their application be reviewed by Judge David Friedman, who initially lifted the gag order on Nov. 16 before his decision was vacated by a panel of judges.
“Without expedited review, Petitioners will continue to suffer irreparable injury daily, as they are silenced on matters implicating the appearance of bias and impropriety on the bench during a trial of immense stakes,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a new filing Monday morning.
In an emergency application for leave to appeal, Trump’s lawyers argued the gag orders “silence the core political speech of the leading Presidential candidate … at the height of President Trump’s campaign.”
Repeating past arguments against the gag order, Trump’s lawyers said the gag orders prohibit necessary speech to highlight the actions of Judge Arthur Engoron’s clerk, which they argue amount to “demonstrable partisan bias on the bench.”
“At stake is a civil defendant’s ability to critique, without fear of reprisal, the court presiding over a bench trial historic both by virtue of the parties thereto and the Attorney General’s novel and open manipulation of the Executive Law to punish her political enemies,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
Expert testimony leads off last full week of defense's case
Donald Trump's lawyers are scheduled to call three expert witnesses to begin the last full week of their case.
Defense lawyers first plan to call real estate valuation authority Frederick Chin, whose expert report, filed with the court, faults the New York attorney general for taking a "narrow and limited view" of the value of Trump's assets in her complaint against the former president.
Like other defense experts, Chin argues in his report that Trump fairly valued his assets and properly disclosed his valuation approach to his lenders.
After Chin testifies, Trump's lawyers plan to call two experts to testify about Trump's valuation of his Mar-a-Lago property, which has been the subject of bitter debate since the start of the trial. Judge Arthur Engoron, in his pretrial partial summary judgment, already decided that Trump overvalued the property by at least 2,300%, and the defense experts -- Lawrence Moens and John Shubin -- are expected to challenge the judge's findings.
Defense attorneys intend to complete their questioning of the three expert witnesses by Wednesday, when Eric Trump is expected to return to the witness stand.
Judge again denies request to subpoena independent monitor
Judge Engoron again denied a request from the defense to subpoena the Trump Organization's independent monitor for testimony.
Twice this week, Trump's attorneys unsuccessfully sought to call to the stand former judge Barbara Jones, the monitor appointed by Engoron to oversee the Trump Organization's finances after the New York attorney general accused the firm of fraud.
Trump attorney Chris Kise tried for a third time Friday.
"We should be entitled to the benefit of having Judge Jones here to respond to those questions about any ambiguities that might exist in her reports," Kise said.
State attorney Andrew Amer argued against the request, citing Jones' immunity as an agent of the court.
"Your request to subpoena Judge Jones is denied," Engoron said, describing the request as a "dangerous infringement on court immunity."
In her latest report issued to Engoron this week, Jones reported that the Trump Organization was "in compliance" but under "enhanced monitoring."
Court was subsequently adjourned for the day following Engoron's ruling.
Judge to allow testimony from Mar-a-Lago experts
Judge Engoron denied two motions by the New York attorney general that would have precluded testimony from two experts on the value of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property.
In his pretrial ruling, Engoron decided that Trump inflated the value of the oceanfront property by 2,300% by listing its value at least $426 million, despite a tax appraiser determining its value at $27.6 million.
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly criticized Engoron's finding, arguing that he misunderstood the purpose of a tax appraisal, and they planned to call two experts to support Trump's value of the property: John Shubin to testify about the deed that the state says limits the estate's value because it restricts the use of the property to a club, and Lawrence Moens, one of the top real estate brokers in Palm Beach.
State attorney Kevin Wallace argued that Shubin would offer impermissible legal opinions, and Moens could not offer a traceable process for evaluating the property.
"He is extremely different than a doctor [explaining] how he might conduct a surgery. He is providing evaluation advice," Wallace said about Moens' testimony.
Engoron denied the state's motions, allowing them both to testify -- but said he would enforce objections if they overstep their areas of expertise.