Donald Trump to take the stand: What to know before he testifies in real estate fraud trial
NEW YORK — After watching his sons Eric and Don Jr. sweat it out on the witness stand last week, former President is scheduled to testify Monday in a high-stakes Manhattan trial that could cost him $250 million and bar his iconic company from operating in New York.
Trump’s turn on the hot seat comes after State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron on Friday extended a partial gag order he imposed on the former president to include the Trump defense team. Trump has twice been fined by Engoron for violating the gag order.
The 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner has described his fraud trial as a “witch hunt” by Letitia James, New York’s state attorney general, and Engoron, both of whom are elected Democrats.
In September, Engoron ruled that Trump and other defendants in the case had fraudulently inflated the value of billions of dollars in assets, and he said that certain entities tied to them will lose their New York business certificates – a finding Trump called “the corporatate death penalty.” The judge also imposed sanctions on Trump’s defense attorneys for repeatedly advancing “bogus arguments,” such as the defense notion that square footage is subjective.
But Engoron’s September bombshell only addressed a portion of James’ 222-page legal complaint accusing Trump and others of persistent and repeated fraud.
Here’s what to know about the high-stakes Trump testimony on Monday.
What is the Trump New York trial about?
The trial is addressing several allegations, including that Trump, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization executives falsified corporate financial statements and committed insurance fraud. The testimony will also inform Engoron’s decision about what further punishment, if any, to impose.
James not only wants to permanently block Trump and his two oldest sons from running a New York business, but also to impose a 5-year ban on the father and the Trump Organization from buying New York real estate or applying for loans from banks in the state. The attorney general’s office has asked Engoron to force the defendants to forfeit any profits stemming from the alleged fraud—a penalty that could reach a quarter billion dollars.
Questioning of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump last week focused on what they knew about alleged misrepresentations in their father’s financial statements, which the state says were used to get bank loans on fraudulent terms. The brothers have been closely involved in their father’s business operations for many years.
Both of the brothers denied having close knowledge of the financial statements, blaming company accountants for any discrepancies.
Last week, Trump said on social media that his sons were “PERSECUTED in a political Witch Hunt by this out of control, publicity seeking, New York State Judge.”
Eric Trump’s testimony on Friday was overshadowed by the controversy over defense attacks on Engoron’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, with whom Engoron sometimes passes notes on the bench. Last month, Trump said on social media that Greenfield “is running this case against me,” prompting Engoron to issue his initial gag order.
On Friday, Trump lawyer Christopher Kise complained that the exchanges created a “perception of bias.”
“Since the commencement of this bench trial, my chambers have been inundated with hundreds of harassing and threating phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages,” the judge wrote in his Friday order. “The First Amendment right of defendants and their attorneys to comment on my staff is far and away outweighed by the need to protect them from threats and physical harm.”
Engoron’s gag order doesn’t extend to the judge himself, who Trump has called a “partisan political hack” and a “radical Trump hater.”