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Trump fraud trial begins in New York court


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Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the trial of himself, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in a civil fraud case brought by state Attorney General Letitia James, at a Manhattan courthouse, in New York City, U.S., October 2, 2023. 

Seth Wenig | Reuters

An attorney for Donald Trump clashed with the judge Monday in the opening hours of the $250 million civil fraud trial that could see the former president permanently banned from doing business in New York.

The attorney, Christopher Kise, at one point stood and admonished Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron.

“You owe it to the defendant to listen to the evidence,” Kise said.

Kise also complained about a person included on the list of potential witnesses submitted by Attorney General Letitia James.

Trump, who was seated in the courtroom next to Kise, expressed frustration during the exchange by shaking his head, shifting in his seat and turning toward the gallery, NBC reported.

On his way out of the courtroom for a lunch break, Trump shot an angry glare at James, who was seated behind him.

The trial comes a year after James sued him, his company, three of his adult children, and top Trump Organization officials.

James alleged the defendants misstated the values of real estate properties by billions of dollars in business records to obtain better loan and insurance terms, and tax benefits.

Before it began, Trump claimed the case was a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“Everything was perfect. There was no crime. The crime is against me,” Trump told reporters in the courthouse hallway.

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James notched a massive win against Trump and other defendants last week when Engoron ruled they were liable for the fraud claims. Engoron in that ruling canceled the defendants’ New York business certificates and ordered an independent receiver to oversee their dissolution.

Engoron, not a jury, will decide whether the defendants are liable for the other six claims at the trial, which is expected to conclude in late December.

“The people have already proven” that Trump’s financial statements from 2011 to 2021 were “false and misleading,” said Kevin Wallace, a prosecutor from the attorney general’s office, in his opening statement to the judge.

Wallace played video clips of depositions from key witnesses, including Trump, former Trump Org Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

In one clip, Cohen said that he and Weisselberg would inflate the value of real estate assets in order to reach the figure that Trump wanted in order to help him climb higher on Forbes’ wealth rankings.

Wallace argued while a person may exaggerate their wealth for Forbes Magazine or television audiences, they “cannot do it while conducting business in the State of New York.”

But Trump’s lawyer Kise said the evidence will show that “there was no intent to defraud.”

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