Trump returning to his civil fraud trial

FILE - Former President Donald Trump, center, sits in the courtroom with his legal team before the continuation of his civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court, Oct. 3, 2023, in New York. Trump is returning Oct. 17 to the Manhattan civil fraud trial that threatens to upend his real estate empire. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump returns to a New York City courthouse Tuesday to be a spectator at the civil fraud trial threatening to disrupt his real estate empire.

Trump voluntarily attended the first three days of the trial, Oct. 2-4. He turned his appearance into a campaign stop by complaining about the case at every opportunity to TV cameras in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Now he will be back, according to his lawyer, accompanied by bolstered security inside and outside the Manhattan courthouse. His appearance was initially supposed to coincide with testimony by Michael Cohen, his former attorney turned foe. But Cohen’s planned appearance on the witness stand was delayed until at least next week, due to a health problem.

Cohen said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he isn’t dodging Trump. On Monday, he said he expects his estranged ex-boss to be in the courtroom when he does testify.

“I am thankful the medical condition, while incredibly painful, does not require an immediate procedure,” Cohen said in a text message. “I anticipate appearing as soon as the pain subsides. When I do testify, I am certain Donald will be in attendance, sitting with his lawyers at the defendant’s table.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against Trump alleges that he and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and inflating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.

The attorney general started investigating Trump in 2019 after Cohen testified to Congress that the billionaire politician had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Instead of Cohen, Trump’s courtroom visit is likely to overlap with the resumption of testimony from his company’s assistant controller, Donna Kidder. State lawyers on Tuesday are also expected to call Jack Weisselberg, the son of longtime Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, who arranged financing for Trump while an executive at Ladder Capital.

During his first visit to the court earlier this month, Trump said the trial was a “scam,” and accused James, a Democrat, of attempting to hurt his chances in the election.

After Trump maligned a key court staffer on social media, the judge called him into a closed-door meeting on the trial’s second day, issued a limited gag order, warning participants in the case not to smear members of his staff. The judge also ordered Trump to delete the post.

Trump’s first trip to the trial attracted hordes of news media and led to enhanced security measures at the courthouse, including extra screening checkpoints, metal barricades along the streets and Secret Service agents lining the courtroom walls.

Trump’s return to court comes a day after the judge in his Washington, D.C. election interference criminal case imposed a narrow gag order barring him from making statements targeting prosecutors, possible witnesses and court staff.

In a pretrial decision last month, a judge resolved the top claim in James’ lawsuit, ruling that Trump and his company committed years of fraud by exaggerating the value of Trump’s assets and net worth on his financial statements.

As punishment, Judge Arthur Engoron ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, putting the future oversight of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in doubt. An appeals court has since blocked enforcement of that aspect of the ruling, at least for now.

The trial concerns six remaining claims in the lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.


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