Donald Trump Jr. will be the first defense witness to be called Monday, attorneys for the Trump family confirmed.
The lawyers representing former President Donald Trump, his adult sons, and their company will begin their defense on Monday. The New York attorney general’s office rested its case on Wednesday and was denied a motion Thursday to limit certain expert witnesses from testifying for the defense.
Judge Arthur Engoron ruled the Trump team can call all of their witnesses, explaining his decision by saying, “I don’t want a retrial of this case, I don’t want to be reversed.”
The judge said he will limit the experts’ testimony to relevant topics in line with his summary judgment decision, where he has already ruled the Trumps and their company are liable for “persistent and repeated” fraud. “If it’s clearly irrelevant, I’m just not going to allow it,” Engoron said.
Engoron recounted the “greatest hits” from his summary judgment in which he determined the valuations of several assets in Trump’s financial statements during various time periods were fraudulent.
The judge did not rule on the defense’s motion Thursday for a verdict to toss out the remaining six claims in the case but perhaps signaled his decision by ordering the parties to prepare to proceed Monday as usual.
The remaining six causes of action in the case include falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit the alleged frauds.
Trump’s lawyers said they also may call back Eric Trump and the former president, as well as bankers involved in the loans that the attorney general’s office alleges were issued based on fraudulent financial statements, when they begin next week.
Trump’s effort to dismiss remaining claims
Donald Trump’s defense attorney Chris Kise argued that the judge should toss remaining claims against Trump and his codefendants because the attorney general didn’t prove that there was any intent or conspiracy to defraud the lenders and insurance companies involved in transactions at issue in this case.
Kise said the attorney general’s office failed to show there was a conspiracy to inflate Trump’s financial statements because the state’s witness Michael Cohen backtracked on the stand by acknowledging that Trump never explicitly told him to inflate assets on his statements of financial condition.
“The only proof of agreement they presented here in court was Michael Cohen,” Kise said.
Kise noted that the attorney general touted Cohen as a key witness early on, playing his deposition during opening statements, but has since downplayed his role in the case since his inconsistent testimony.
“He was showcased and now the attorney general suddenly retreats,” Kise said.
Trump’s attorney also argued there’s no trial evidence that the banks and insurance companies would have acted differently if they knew Trump’s net worth was lower than he reported at the time of the transactions.
That prompted the judge to ask the attorney general’s team if any bank employee said they would have done things differently.
Assistant Attorney General Kevin Wallace acknowledged they did not ask that question of Deutsche Bank executive Nicholas Haigh during his trial testimony, saying “We didn’t present at trial a hypothetical.”
He added the Deutsche Bank executive said it in a deposition, but they never elicited the response during the trial.
Kise also said the judge must consider Trump’s own testimony earlier this week that he believes banks do their own due diligence during lending deals and mainly focus on the commercial asset.
“I think that you’re assuming I believe him,” Engoron said.
Trump’s sons say they’re being punished because of their father
Defense attorney Cliff Robert also asked the judge for a directed verdict on behalf of this clients Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
“The attorney general has not proven my clients were involved in the creation of the statements of financial condition,” Robert said.
Robert reminded the court that Cohen said he didn’t recall discussing the statements of financial condition with Eric or Donald Trump Jr.
Both of Trump’s sons testified at trial that they relied on accounting and legal personnel to assure them the statements they signed were accurate.
“My clients have been dragged into a fight primarily between the attorney general and their father,” Robert said.
The assistant attorney general also said there’s evidence the banks did care about the financial statements - they asked for financial statements and required them to be certified by the defendants and were included in the underwriting of the loans, Wallace said.
Wallace also said it is not enough for the defendants to have sat on the witness stand and said they didn’t intend to defraud anyone.
“This is a documents case and each of the three defendants signed documents saying they were responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the statements,” Wallace said.
Sparring over Trump’s expert witnesses
The attorney general’s office filed a motion to preclude the testimony of four expert witnesses Trump’s legal team wants to call in the defense case, which led Kise to suggest their lawyer go to Russia.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Amer said in court Thursday that it is a “total waste of time and resources” to allow the expert witnesses to testify in Trump’s defense.
“Any expert opinion about valuations of assets or accounting standards or personal financial statements are simply irrelevant,” Amer said.
Amer told the court that in the wake of Engoron’s summary judgment order, the trial is now meant to determine whether the Trumps and their business had intent to defraud; whether they had engaged in a conspiracy to do so; what is the proper amount of disgorgement and what further relief should be granted in addition to what was already determined in the summary judgment.
Kise lobbed an insult at Amer to start his opposing argument to the motion.
“I suggest that Amer check the internet. Vladimir Putin has some openings. That’s where he belongs,” Kise said.
Engoron told Kise to apologize for his comment.
“I will refrain from further pejoratives, but I will not retract it,” Kise said, although after returning from the lunch break he did apologize to the judge and Amer. Kise said he is justified in his feeling that it is against the rule of law for the attorney general’s office to suggest Trump’s defense case is a waste of time.
“Should we just rest now and not put on any case at all? That’s really where they want this case to go,” Kise added. “The world is watching and so the world needs to see that everyone’s evidence at least gets into the courtroom at some point.”
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