Trump lawyers to give closing argument in New York fraud trial

11 Jan 2024 12:30pm
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he takes a break during his civil fraud trial in New York City on October 18, 2023. - Photo by AFP
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he takes a break during his civil fraud trial in New York City on October 18, 2023. - Photo by AFP

NEW YORK - Donald Trump's legal team will deliver closing arguments Thursday in a New York civil fraud case after the judge barred the former president from using the trial finale as an election campaign grandstand.

Prosecutors are demanding $370 million from the former US president and current White House hopeful over fraud allegations -- and to bar him from conducting business in the state where he made his name as a celebrity real estate tycoon.

The trial is one of multiple criminal and civil cases facing Trump, ranging from a rape allegation to conspiring to overturn the 2020 election result.

The Republican has responded by seeking to paint himself as the victim of a "witch hunt" aimed at preventing his return to the White House in this November's election.

He had sought to deliver the closing arguments himself on Thursday, but permission was denied when he failed to sign off on a series of restrictions aimed at preventing him from using the courtroom as an election event.

Trump, the judge had ordered, could not "deliver a campaign speech" or "impugn" the court or those working there.

Trump is accused of fraudulently inflating the value of his properties, with New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking the $370 million over "unlawful profits," her office said in a filing.

"The myriad deceptive schemes they employed to inflate asset values and conceal facts were so outrageous that they belie innocent explanation," it said Friday.

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In one example given to the court, James's team allege Trump valued Mar-a-Lago, his exclusive Florida club, using "asking prices for neighboring homes, although they knew actual sales prices were the correct comparison."

"From 2011-2015 defendants added a 30 percent premium because the property was a 'completed (commercial) facility,'" the filing said.

The amount to be paid will be determined by the judge, revealed in his final decision and order, for which no date has yet been confirmed.

As the case is a civil rather than criminal process, there is no threat of jail time for Trump or his co-accused.

Trump repeatedly took to social media during the case, saying it was "decided against me before it even started."

'My financial statements are great'

In one post on his Truth Social platform, he lashed out at James, calling her "totally corrupt" and saying "I did nothing wrong."

"My financial statements are great and very conservative," he said. "This case should never have been brought."

Trump's lawyers rejected any notion of fraud, arguing that real estate valuations are subjective and the banks lending to his organization had not lost any money.

Trump has not been required to attend the trial, but he has shown up sporadically, attracting intense media coverage and using the limelight to deny any wrongdoing, while often also crudely insulting James and others in the court.

The civil fraud trial is one of several legal battles facing Trump as he seeks to recapture the presidency.

He is set to go on trial in Washington in March for conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Florida in May on charges of mishandling top secret government documents.

The twice-impeached former president also faces racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state after his 2020 defeat by Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump is appealing a ruling by Colorado's highest court that would keep him off the presidential primary ballot in the state because of his role in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots by his supporters.

The likely Republican presidential nominee has spent much of the campaign leaning into his legal troubles rather than trying to brush them under the carpet.

At rallies, on social media and at fundraisers, he brings up his four criminal indictments more frequently than his plans to "Make America Great Again." - AFP

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