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Donald Trump set to testify again next month in his civil fraud trial

Finishing its second month, the trial is putting a spotlight on the real estate empire that vaulted Trump into public life and eventually politics.
Donald Trump set to testify again next month in his civil fraud trial
Posted at 6:26 PM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 21:01:32-05

After a scorching first turn on the witness stand, former president Donald Trump plans to testify again next month in his civil fraud trial, his lawyers said Monday.

He is to return Dec. 11, defense attorney Christopher Kise said.

Trump was called to testify last time by his adversaries in the lawsuit, the New York attorney general's office. This time, the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner's own lawyers will open the questioning and can ask about a wider range of subjects than they could on cross-examination.

Not that those limitations stopped Trump from lambasting the suit and defending himself and his business against Attorney General Letitia James' claims. Her lawsuit says he and his company misled lenders and insurers by giving them financial statements that greatly inflated his asset values and overall net worth.

"I'm worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements," Trump insisted on the stand last time. "This is the opposite of fraud. ... The fraud is her."

Now finishing its second month, the trial is putting a spotlight on the real estate empire that vaulted Trump into public life and eventually politics. He maintains that James, a Democrat, is trying to damage his campaign.

At the heart of the case are Trump's 2014 to 2021 annual "statements of financial condition," which were used to help secure loans and other deals.

A Trump Organization executive testified Monday that the company no longer produces such statements.

The company continues to prepare various audits and other financial reports specific to some of its components, but "there is no roll-up financial statement of the company," said Mark Hawthorn, the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization's hotel arm.

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He wasn't asked why the comprehensive reports had ceased but said they are "not required by any lender, currently, or any constituency."

Messages seeking comment on the matter were sent to spokespeople for the Trump Organization.

Hawthorn, a certified public accountant, has worked since 2016 for the company's Trump Hotels arm. Parent company Executive Vice President Donald Trump Jr. testified earlierthat Hawthorn is functioning as the entire Trump Organization's chief financial officer, calling him "the finance guy within Trump world now" and saying the CPA "has taken on all those decisional responsibilities."

But Hawthorn said that statement was wrong, that using "the word 'all' makes it incorrect."

Hawthorn was testifying for the defense, which argues that various companies under the Trump Organization's umbrella have produced reams of financial documents "that no one had a problem with," as lawyer Clifford Robert put it.

A lawyer for James' office, Andrew Amer, stressed that the suit is about Trump's overall statements of financial condition, calling the other documents irrelevant.

Trump asserts that his wealth was understated, not overblown, on his financial statements. He also says the numbers came with disclaimers saying that they weren't audited and that others might reach different conclusions about his financial position.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who will decide the verdict in the non-jury trial, has already ruled that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud. The current proceeding is to decide remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

James wants the judge to impose over $300 million in penalties and to ban Trump from doing business in New York — and that's on top of Engoron's pretrial order that a receiver take control of some of Trump's properties. An appeals court has frozen that order for now.


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