Home » Trump to Retake Stand in New York Fraud Trial
Business Featured News Politics

Trump to Retake Stand in New York Fraud Trial

Donald Trump will give the final word in his defense against claims his business engaged in a decade of fraud as the New York trial threatening his business empire nears its end.

The former president is expected to take the witness stand for a third time Monday, this time under questioning from his own legal team.

In testimony last month during the state’s case, Trump defended his business practices by downplaying key financial documents and declaring the trial corrupt. His fiery testimony often grew political, more akin to a stump speech than a direct examination as he railed against the judge and New York attorney general whom he decried as “frauds” and “political hacks.”

“It’s a disgrace that a case like this is going on; all you have to do is read the legal scholars — the papers — and you’ll know,” Trump testified in November, raising his voice. “This is a political witch hunt.”

But with Trump’s counsel steering the questioning this time, the former president will have significantly more latitude to set the narrative and espouse his side of the story.

Throughout the defense case, which began in mid-November, several witnesses reprised previous testimony while offering up their own spin.

The first time Donald Trump Jr. testified in the New York attorney general’s case, he distanced himself from documents at the heart of the case – his father’s statements of financial condition, which detail the value of the Trump Organization’s various assets and were sent to banks and insurers to secure loans and deals. New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) lawsuit claims the Trump Organization falsely adjusted the value of its assets to receive tax and insurance benefits.

A defendant in the case, Donald Trump Jr. said he did sign off on Trump’s financial statements while his father was president. However, he said he counted on the work of accountants and executives like then-Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to be correct.

“As a trustee, I have an obligation to listen [to] those who are expert — who have an expertise of these things,” Donald Trump Jr. testified.

But when he testified again in the defense case, the key financial statements were hardly the focus of his testimony. Instead, Donald Trump Jr. walked Judge Arthur Engoron through a glossy slideshow titled “The Trump Story” — a flashy narration of the Trump Organization’s origin story, complete with sleek photographs of the company’s luxury golf courses and hotels. Notably glossed over were the valuations of those properties.

Jeff McConney, the Trump Organization’s ex-corporate controller and another defendant in the case, had similarly variant testimonies when called as a state versus defense witness.

McConney’s testimony was used as a vehicle for state lawyers to show evidence that Trump’s statements of financial condition were integral to some loan deals. He also said he believed Trump reviewed those documents before they were finalized, linking Trump to the skewed documents.

But McConney’s testimony for the defense focused far less on logistics. Nearly in tears, he testified to the exhaustion caused by the Trump Organization’s barrage of legal issues, which ultimately led the 36-year veteran of the company to retire in February.

“I’m very proud of the work that I did,” McConney said before detailing all the investigations and legal proceedings he’s been pulled into.
“I just wanted to relax and stop being accused of misrepresenting assets for the company that I loved working for,” he said.

When Trump retakes the stand, arguments he attempted to make while testifying for the state could be bolstered and reframed after other defense witness testimony backed him up.

Several Deutsche Bank executives, for example, affirmed defense arguments including that the bank wanted to work with the Trump Organization, did its own due diligence and found no fraud. Trump made those points in his own testimony.

“Banks check the work,” Trump testified, arguing that his statements of financial condition weren’t just taken at face value by the bankers with which Trump Organization executives worked.

Deutsche Bank Managing Director David Williams’s testified last month for the defense that bankers viewed their clients’ statements of financial condition as “subjective or subject to estimates” — and, that the bank took its own look at reports of net worth.

“I think we expect clients’ provided information to be accurate,” Williams said. “At the same time, it’s not an industry standard that these statements be audited.”

“They’re largely reliant on the use of estimates,” he added, so bankers routinely “make some adjustments.”
It’s all-but inevitable that Trump’s inflammatory political rhetoric will surface again, as well.

In the month since he testified, Trump and his counsel have been locked in a battle with the trial judge, whom they claim has been biased against them from th e start. The dispute began after Engoron imposed a gag order on Trump and his lawyers barring them from publicly discussing the judge’s staff.

The order doesn’t prevent Trump’s team from criticizing the judge himself or James, the state’s top prosecutor. Nonetheless, that contention has placed Engoron directly in Trump’s line of fire on social media and in person. During his testimony last month, Trump lambasted the judge as “Trump hating” and questioned his impartiality.

The former president’s legal team attempted to delay his testimony until after their appeal of the gag order plays out, but the judge forcefully denied that effort.

“He is not capable of fully testifying because he is subject to the gag order,” Trump attorney Chris Kise argued, according to ABC News.
“Absolutely not. No way. No how. It’s a nonstarter,” Engoron said.

Trump’s third round of testimony – following a judge-ordered stint on the witness stand over a violation of the gag order and his examination by the state – could also give insight into how he’ll behave as his criminal trials get underway in the new year.

The former president faces a combined 91 charges across four criminal cases, the first of which is expected to head to trial in Washington on March 4.

Source: Thehill