Former President Donald Trump to take the stand in New York civil fraud trial

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives for his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 2023 in New York City.

Michael M. Santiago / Michael M. Santiago

Former President Donald Trump is expected to answer questions about the role he played in fraudulent financial statements filed by the Trump Organization between 2011 and 2021.

Trump is the founder and former chairman and president of the Trump Organization, a company that includes, among other things, a large real estate portfolio.

He is being accused by state Attorney General Letitia James of being a part of a scheme that involved inflating or deflating the value of assets in order to secure better business, insurance and banking deals. Trump’s two older sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are also defendants in the lawsuit.

This will be the first time the former president is publicly called to the witness stand to answer questions about the allegations brought by the attorney general. Trump, who has attended several days of the trail over the past six weeks, was previously called up by presiding Judge Arthur Engoron to answer questions related to public comments that were later found to be in violation of a gag order.

Late last week, Engoron issued a second gag order — this time on Trump’s legal team — after heated exchanges between the two parties during last week’s testimonies. Trump’s lawyers repeatedly accused Engoron’s law clerk of being biased and criticized the judge for passing notes and having the clerk sit on the bench alongside him.

The second limited order filed on Friday blocks Trump’s lawyers from making “further statements about internal and confidential communications” between him and his staff.

“Since the commencement of this bench trial, my chambers have been inundated with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters and packages,” Engoron wrote in the order. “The First Amendment right of defendants and their attorneys to common on my staff is far and away outweighed by the need to protect them from threats and physical harm.”

The two Trump brothers testified last week

Eric and Donald Jr. Trump are both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization and held key leadership roles during the time their father was president. They were both questioned by the attorney general’s legal team last week over their roles within the Trump Organization and their interactions with those putting together the annual statements of financial condition.

Eric Trump at first denied having “anything to do” with the statements of financial condition. But the court was shown email correspondence between Trump and then-controller of the Trump Organization Jeffrey McConney (now co-defendant), in which Trump was asked to review and provide input on the statements and properties in the statements. Trump told the court he relied on others to ensure the statements were accurate, even if the court documents show he was privy to the process.

His brother Trump Jr. had a similar testimony. When asked directly by Engoron if he had anything to do with statements of financial condition issued by the Trump Organization, Trump Jr. said: “No, I did not, your honor.” He was also asked about his role as a trustee of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust.

Trustees of the Trust were “responsible for” the statements, according to the documents shown in the trial.

Throughout his testimony, Trump Jr. said also he relied on others, such as co-defendant and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Wesselberg, to vet the statements of financial condition.

McConney and Wisselberg have also already testified.

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