Trump’s New York fraud trial wraps up, with millions of dollars on the line

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Former President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York CityImage source, Reuters

Donald Trump returned to Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday for the last day of his fraud trial, lashing out in court at the attorney general who brought the case.

A judge has already determined that Trump family members and executives fraudulently inflated assets to secure favourable loans.

But the trial will determine damages.

New York Judge Arthur Engoron has said he will issue a final written ruling in the case by the end of the month.

The outcome could be stiff penalties that may challenge the famous family’s legacy after it built its fortune in New York real estate.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is asking the judge for a $370m (£290m) penalty. She also aims to bar Donald Trump from ever doing business in New York again, a five-year ban for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr and an independent monitor to oversee their company for the next five years.

Mr Trump’s attorneys attempted to discredit Ms James’s case, arguing during two hours of closing argument on Thursday that the family had not committed fraud.

At the end, the former president interjected as well.

After defence lawyer Christopher Kise requested that his client be allowed to speak, Mr Trump told the judge the trial was a “a fraud on me”.

Judge Engoron allowed Mr Trump to continue talking despite him refusing to abide by restrictions set by the judge.

Mr Trump went on to insult Judge Engoron as well as Ms James.

“We have a situation where I’m an innocent man, I’ve been persecuted by someone running for office,” Mr Trump said, before Judge Engoron told Mr Kise to “control his client”.

Mr Trump has made similar complaints during the three-month trial, both in his testimony before the court and in his speeches to reporters outside. He also brought up similar grievances when speaking to the press on three separate occasions during the hearing on Thursday.

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Repetition appeared to be a defence strategy at points.

Mr Kise reiterated several arguments, including that the case was politically motivated and that Mr Trump’s real estate valuations did not cause any harm to banks or anyone else.

“The marketplace functioned as it should,” he said of Mr Trump’s real estate dealings.

He also claimed Judge Engoron’s ruling would have wide-ranging consequences beyond the Trump family.

“This isn’t just about President Trump,” he said. “What you do, judge, impacts every corporation in New York.”

He also echoed previous testimony from Mr Trump and his two children, Donald Jr and Eric, who shifted blame to the accountants who they argued were in charge of preparing financial statements. Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka took the stand earlier in the trial, as well, although she is no longer a defendant in the case.

Ms James’ team disagreed and said the Trumps were attempting to shirk their responsibilities.

In their own closing arguments on Thursday, they argued the onus was just as much on the Trump family to ensure financial statements were accurate as it was on their accountants.

State attorney Andrew Amer claimed Mr Trump did not fake numbers himself but got employees and accountants to do his bidding to “keep his net worth as high as possible”.

The prosecution also showed a host of emails during the trial that suggested Trump family members were at least aware of Mr Trump’s financial statements, despite testimony to the contrary.

Before court, Ms James said these documents and other testimony during the 10-week trial had “revealed the full scale and scope” of Mr Trump’s fraud.

“I am proud of the case we presented, and I am confident that the facts and the rule of law are on our side,” she said.

Many of the courtroom tensions over the past three months have centred on the New York judge, with Mr Trump’s legal team claiming that Judge Engoron and his law clerk are biased against the former president.

Mr Trump has also insulted Judge Engoron’s clerk on social media, leading to a gag order from that cost him $15,000.

Before court began on Thursday, court officials told reporters there had been a threat made on Judge Engoron’s home on New York’s Long Island. Local police later told US media that the threat was a “swatting incident”, a hoax call made to send law enforcement to a home.

The end of the fraud trial comes as several separate criminal cases against Mr Trump – including two sets of charges over his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election – are heating up.

Another civil case, a second lawsuit from writer E Jean Carroll, is set to begin this month.

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