Ex-president to testify in New York fraud case

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, October 24, 2023.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump is expected to testify Monday in the $250 million civil fraud trial that threatens to torpedo his family’s business empire.

New York Attorney General Letitia James seeks to permanently bar Trump and his two adult sons from running a business in the Empire State because, she says, they have engaged in years of financial fraud.

James’ lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court alleges that the Trumps intentionally misstated the values of his assets on financial statements to falsely inflate Trump’s net worth and obtain various financial benefits.

The witness stand is a rare position for the former president and current 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump’s aggressive political and personal speaking style will be tested when he is forced to answer questions under oath.

Trump insists the financial statements at the heart of the case were never meant to be definitive.

“My worth is far greater than on financial statements, plus they contain a full disclaimer clause telling readers of this information to do their own due diligence,” Trump posted on Nov. 2.

But Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, has accused him in court of directing executives to falsely manipulate his net worth.

The first time Trump was questioned under oath in this case, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 440 times, during a deposition with James’ attorneys in August 2022.

Legal experts say that unlike a criminal case, where a defendant opting to take the Fifth cannot be held against them, in a civil case, a judge can draw an adverse inference from a witness’ refusal to testify.

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Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump testified last week that they relied on the company accountants who helped prepare the annual financial statements.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who will deliver verdicts in the no-jury trial, has already found the defendants liable for fraud and ordered the cancellation of their New York business certificates. The trial, which is scheduled to last until late December, addresses six other claims alleged by James.

Trump is appealing Engoron’s pretrial ruling, which is on hold as the trial takes place. He consistently denies all wrongdoing and frequently repeats a laundry list of public defenses, including that his financial records contained an absolute disclaimer clause, and that the banks who approved his loans ultimately made money.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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