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.
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Trump Organization VP returns to witness stand
Trump Organization Vice President Patrick Birney returned to the witness stand to describe his role preparing Trump's statement of financial condition between 2016 and 2021.
"Every new year, I would just copy and paste the spreadsheet from the year before," Birney said, testifying this time for the defense.
Birney largely testified about the spreadsheets of supporting data he prepared, as well as the supporting data he cited from year to year.
Court was adjourned for the day following Birney's testimony. He is set to return to the witness stand later this week after the court hears from witnesses from Deutsche Bank.
Trump exec disputes independent monitor's findings
Trump Hotels chief operating officer Mark Hawthorn disputed an August 2023 report from the Trump Organization's independent monitor that said the company continued to provide incomplete information to lenders.
Hawthorn had earlier testified that the monitor never communicated that they "uncovered fraud or any irregularities."
State attorney Andrew Amer confronted Hawthorn with the letter from the Trump Organization's independent monitor Barbara Jones flagging inconsistencies.
"Were you aware that Judge Jones had identified such inconsistencies?" Amer asked.
"Yes," Hawthorn answered -- but said that he stood by his initial statement that the monitor never uncovered fraud, claiming that the flagged issues were consistent with accounting practices.
"Did the monitor accuse the Trump Organization of disseminating false and misleading information?" defense attorney Clifford Robert asked on redirect examination.
"No," Hawthorne said.
Trump defense attorney Chris Kise used the disagreement about the monitor's findings to renew his request to question Jones, which Judge Engoron denied earlier in the afternoon.
"What the monitor thinks is clearly and squarely at issue," Kise said, describing the Trump Organization's issues as "minor accounting discrepancies which happen in a large corporation all the time."
"Every time you talk, there's a campaign speech," Engoron quipped following Kise's lengthy argument.
Engoron ultimately stood by his initial ruling, but said he would allow Kise to present cases, if they exist, supporting the defense's right to call the monitor.
"I will decide what reports mean and what implications there are," Engoron said about the monitor's findings.
Donald Trump to return to witness stand in December
Defense lawyers plan to call Donald Trump as their final witnesses in the former president's civil fraud trial.
Asked to confirm the final witnesses for the defense's case, defense attorney Chris Kise said that Trump is likely to testify on Dec. 11.
"I think we can make that work," Kise said, adding that Trump's exact schedule might change.
Eric Trump will also return to the witness stand on Dec. 6, according to Kise.
Those dates might change if Judge Engoron limits testimony from any of the remaining witnesses.
State attorney Kevin Wallace said that the New York attorney general may present a "minimal" rebuttal case.
Judge blocks testimony from independent monitor
Judge Arthur Engoron blocked the defense team's plan to call the Trump Organization's independent monitor, describing the last-minute change to the defense's witness list as "untimely" and "inappropriate."
The judge's ruling came after defense lawyer Clifford Robert announced the plan to call former federal Judge Barbara Jones and her associate to testify for the defense.
Before Engoron issuing his ruling from the bench, attorneys from both sides appeared to privately meet with the judge in his chambers.
"I hereby preclude their testimony," Engoron said from the bench, regarding Jones and her associate.
Engoron said that he determined that Jones and her staff are effectively "arms of the court" and thus cannot be called to testify.
He also expressed concern that Jones' testimony could create conflicts of interest that force her to step away from her role overseeing the Trump Organization's finances.
Trial scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET
The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, et al, is scheduled to get underway in lower Manhattan at 10 a.m. with opening statements.
If opening statements are completed before the end of the day, the New York attorney general plans to begin her case by calling Trump's former Mazars USA accountant Donald Bender to the stand.
Mazars severed its business relationship with the former president last year after learning of the attorney general's findings during the AG's probe.