Saturday, December 3, 2022

Trump Will Testify In Fraud Trial Ahead Of Primaries, Lawyer Says

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Topline
Former President Donald Trump will testify under oath next year about whether he and his company fraudulently inflated the value of assets for financial gain, his attorney said in court Tuesday, as the Trump Organization is set to go to trial in October—right before Trump asks voters to elect him again as president in the 2024 primary elections.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia … [+] James for a civil investigation on August 10 in New York City.

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Key Facts

Trump attorney Alina Habba told a New York state judge Tuesday that Trump intends to testify at trial, Insider and the Financial Times report.

Habba said Trump wants to defend himself in front of a trial of Manhattan residents, Insider reports, favoring a jury trial over a trial in which only the judge decides the verdict.

The hearing took place after Trump and other plaintiffs in the case—including his children and the Trump Organization—filed motions to dismiss New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, which alleges the company repeatedly misstated the value of its assets for financial gain.

The lawsuit directly implicates Trump himself, alleging fraudulent documents “were approved at the highest levels of the Trump Organization—including by Mr. Trump himself.”

New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron—who Trump has claimed is biased against him and unsuccessfully fought to have taken off the case—had little patience for the attempt to dismiss the case, multiple outlets report, saying the ex-president’s legal arguments were “deja vu all over again” and rehashed arguments he had already rejected in the case.

Engoron set a trial date for October 2, 2023, though the Financial Times reports Trump’s attorneys are seeking to delay the trial.

What To Watch For
The New York lawsuit asks the court to impose a range of punishments on Trump, his children and business, including imposing a $250 million fine, canceling certificates for Trump’s businesses, imposing more oversight on the company, barring Trump from engaging in any commercial real estate acquisitions for five years and blocking him and his children from serving as officers or directors in any New York business. The case is a civil suit, meaning it won’t result in any criminal penalties for Trump or his company if he’s found guilty, but James said when the lawsuit was filed that her office had also referred evidence of crimes to the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, which could result in additional criminal charges.

Tangent
The trial concerning James’ lawsuit is separate from a separate trial the Trump Organization is now facing for alleged tax fraud, which is based on criminal charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and has been underway since October. Unlike James’ lawsuit, Trump is not personally implicated in that case and will not be testifying.

Surprising Fact
Trump’s willingness to testify in the New York trial comes as the president has repeatedly fought efforts in the past to testify under oath. The president and his children had to be compelled to testify in James’ investigation that led to the civil lawsuit after fighting the subpoenas in court, and while Trump was deposed in the investigation, he refused to answer questions and instead invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. The ex-president is also now fighting a subpoena for his testimony as part of the House January 6 Committee’s investigation into the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Key Background
James sued Trump, his business and associates in September after investigating the Trump Organization’s finances since March 2019, after ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen testified to Congress that Trump had fraudulently inflated or deflated the value of his assets on financial statements for personal gain. The lawsuit accuses the Trump Organization of making more than 200 false or misleading valuations of its assets over a 10-year period from 2011 and 2021, which the AG alleges were made to secure financial benefits like more favorable terms with lenders or to boost Trump’s own net worth. Engoron’s unwillingness to dismiss the case Tuesday comes after the judge had previously sided with James’ office earlier in November and granted their request to appoint an independent monitor, who will oversee the Trump Organization’s activities in order to stop more alleged fraud from taking place until the case is resolved at trial.

Further Reading
Donald Trump will testify in New York court to defend his business empire (Insider)

NY AG James Sues Trump For Fraud (Forbes)

Judge Appoints Independent Monitor To Oversee Trump Organization Amid Fraud Probe (Forbes)

Checks & Imbalances: A Forbes Look At The Trump Fraud Lawsuit (Forbes)

Exclusive Recording, Documents Bolster Trump Fraud Lawsuit (Forbes)

How Forbes Exposed Trump’s Lies About The Size Of His Penthouse (Forbes)

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