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Trump’s $370M civil fraud trial is nearing an end. What to know.

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(NEW YORK) — After hearing 11 weeks of testimony, a judge on Thursday will hear closing arguments in a court case that could dismantle former President Donald Trump’s New York-based business empire.


The final decision in Trump’s civil fraud trial — which Judge Arthur Engoron is expected to issue later this month — could not only cost Trump hundreds of millions of dollars but also bar him from the New York real estate industry that propelled him to stardom and, later, the U.S. presidency.

Resting her case after presenting more than two dozen witnesses, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that Trump, his adult sons, and his top deputies inflated the assets listed in his annual financial statement, known as a statement of financial condition or SFC. The statements gave Trump’s lenders a false sense of confidence about doing business with him, which led them to offer Trump more favorable interest rates than he would have otherwise received, James alleged.

Based on the sale of two properties that relied on those financial statements, and on multiple loan transactions, James alleges that Trump’s overvaluations allowed him and his sons to fraudulently pocket roughly $370 million over a decade.

“The conclusion that defendants intended to defraud when preparing and certifying Trump’s SFCs is inescapable; the myriad deceptive schemes they employed to inflate asset values and conceal facts were so outrageous that they belie innocent explanation,” state attorney Kevin Wallace said in a filing last week that requested Trump be fined $370 million plus interest.

Trump’s lawyers fired back during a lengthy defense case involving a small army of experts — which together cost Trump over $2.5 million — in which they attempted to turn back the tide in a case that Engoron partially decided before the first witness was ever called.

In a partial summary judgment issued on the eve of the trial, Engoron determined, based on the inconsistencies in Trump’s financial statements and supporting documents, that the former president inflated his net worth by as much as $2.2 billion in documents he used to secure key business deals.

In the same ruling, Engoron said that the evidence and testimony presented at trial would cover six additional allegations, which relied on proving the defendants’ intent and the alleged relevance of Trump’s financial statements to lenders.

Defense lawyers have argued that the New York attorney general failed to prove Trump and his sons intended to commit fraud when they certified the former president’s financial statements, and his lenders did not consider those statements relevant when deciding to do business with Trump.

“There was no bank that brought any claims against anybody that is a defendant in this case, because there was no damage and there was no victim,” Trump’s legal spokesperson, Alina Habba, said during the trial.

Testifying as a witness during the state’s case, Trump assailed Engoron’s finding that Trump valued his Mar-a-Lago resort at roughly $18 million for tax purposes while listing it in his financial statement at more than $612 million.

“The fraud is on the Court, not on me, when you rule that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million. I could give you a quarter of a tennis court would be worth that,” Trump testified.

Trump has also repeatedly criticized the case as politically motivated and has argued, without evidence, that the judge overseeing the case and James are colluding to defraud him.

“He’s controlled by Tish James which is a horrible thing,” Trump said in a video statement posted to social media on Tuesday.

Trump initially planned to personally deliver part of his closing statement, but that plan was thrown into doubt after Trump’s lawyers refused to agree with the rules set by Engoron.

“He may not comment on irrelevant matters. In particular, and without limitation, he may not deliver a campaign speech, and he may not impugn myself, my staff, plaintiff, plaintiffs’ staff, or the New York State Court System, none of which is relevant to this case,” Engoron wrote in an email to Trump’s attorney that he later posted to the court’s docket.

Multiple legal experts ABC News spoke with described Trump’s attempt to deliver a closing address as unprecedented and potentially perilous for the former president.

“One of the old adages is, ‘He who represents himself has a fool for a client,'” trial attorney and Dartmouth College senior lecturer Bruce Fredrickson said. “The thinking behind that is, you lose the objectivity and impartiality that an advocate can provide on your own behalf.”

It’s unclear if Trump’s lawyers will mount a last-minute effort to have Trump to speak in court, but the overall chance of Trump’s success in the case appears increasingly unlikely. In a ruling last month, as testimony was starting to wrap up, Engoron said he was unconvinced by the major claims made by Trump’s lawyers.

“Defendants also trot out two of their standard canards, that valuations are subjective and that the law only penalizes ‘material’ deviations,” the judge wrote. “These both fall into the category of ‘Let no one be fooled.'”

“Valuations, as elucidated ad nauseum in this trial, can be based on different criteria analyzed in different ways,” Engoron said. “But a lie is still a lie.”

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