Michael M. Santiago Getty images/Agence France-Presse The former tenant of the White House Donald Trump is accused with his sons, Eric and Donald Jr, of having colossally inflated during the 2010s the value of the skyscrapers, luxury hotels or golf courses at the heart of their empire , the Trump Organization, to obtain more favorable loans from banks and better insurance conditions.
Greg Walton – Agence France-Presse in New York
- United States
Donald Trump returned Thursday for the final stretch of his civil trial in New York for financial fraud, obliged however to let his lawyers plead his defense in the courtroom, even if he again denounced in the corridors “electoral interference” in the middle of the campaign for the 2024 presidential election.
The former tenant of the White House, who dreams of returning there, is accused with his sons Eric and Donald Jr of having colossally inflated the value of skyscrapers during the 2010s , luxury hotels or golf courses at the heart of their empire, the Trump Organization, to obtain more favorable loans from banks and better insurance conditions.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who filed a civil complaint in the fall of 2022 for financial fraud, is seeking US$370 million in compensation.
Since the trial began on October 2, the 77-year-old billionaire and tribune has railed against justice each time he appears in the courtroom or in the corridors of the Manhattan courthouse, denouncing a political “witch hunt” or a “banana republic trial.”
Returning to civil court on Thursday, he once again thundered in front of the press against “political interference”, “electoral interference at the highest level” and a “very unfair trial” .
For three months, the Trump clan's lawyers have deemed the case legally empty.
But the favorite of the Republican Party primaries which open on January 15 in Iowa wanted to ensure his own defense on Thursday.
One of his lawyers, Chris Kise, wrote to court judge Arthur Engoron at the beginning of January to inform him of his eminent client's wishes.
According to an exchange of emails included in the legal file and consulted by AFP, on the advisability and conditions of such an exceptional request, the magistrate issued a blunt dismissal on Wednesday.
He didn't want to risk Mr. Trump “delivering a campaign speech” in the courtroom.
Me Kise initially tried to have the plea postponed until January 29 by arguing that Donald Trump's mother-in-law had “died” on Tuesday and that he “was very close to her”.
Request rejected by Judge Engoron who then set an ultimatum on Wednesday so that Donald Trump could speak under conditions: “It’s take it or leave it. It's now or never. You have until noon, in seven minutes. I WILL NOT GIVE ANY ADDITIONAL DELAY.”
Trump will not plead
A quarter of an hour later, the judge ruled: the former president “will not speak in court tomorrow” on Thursday.
In a sign of the tense climate surrounding the trial, police in Nassau County, on the Long Island peninsula east of New York, confirmed that Judge Engoron's home had been raided. 'an unfounded threat of a bomb threat.
At the hearing, Donald Trump violently attacked Judge Engoron's team, as well as prosecutor James, and the magistrate imposed two fines totaling US$15,000.< /p>
Contrary to the criminal trials awaiting him this year, including that for his alleged maneuvers aimed at reversing the result of the November 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump does not risk prison time in this civil case.
But he is playing big and things are off to a bad start.
Even before the opening of the proceedings, Judge Engoron had estimated at the end of September that the prosecution presented “conclusive evidence that between 2014 and 2021, the defendants overvalued the assets” of the group of “812 million [to] US$2.2 billion” depending on the year, in the figures on Donald Trump’s annual financial documents.
As a result of “repeated fraud,” he ordered the liquidation of companies managing his assets, such as the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and the 40 Wall Street skyscraper.
Measures suspended, however, by an appeal court.
The trial concerns several other crimes, such as insurance fraud, and the financial penalties demanded by the New York State Attorney General's Office, which is now seeking US$370 million and no longer US$250 million. million US$ as in the initial complaint.
Judge Engoron remains to close the proceedings in the coming days and determine the amount of damage and reparations.