Former President Donald Trump is preparing to take the stand on Monday in a high-stakes civil fraud trial that poses a significant threat to his family’s business empire. The New York Attorney General, Letitia James, has launched a lawsuit aimed at permanently barring Trump and his two adult sons from conducting business in the Empire State. James alleges that the Trumps have been involved in years of financial fraud, intentionally misstating the values of assets on financial statements to inflate Trump’s net worth and obtain illicit financial benefits.
This trial carries particular weight as it marks a rare instance of Trump, currently viewed as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, taking the witness stand. As he faces questioning under oath, his trademark aggressive political and personal speaking style will undoubtedly be put to the test. Trump maintains that the financial statements at the core of the case were never intended to be definitive, asserting that his true worth surpasses the figures stated therein. He went on to reference a disclaimer clause advising readers to conduct their own due diligence when considering the information.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, has presented damning allegations in court, asserting that Trump directed executives to manipulate his net worth in an effort to deceive. During a deposition in August 2022, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 440 times—the first instance of him being questioned under oath regarding this case. Legal experts have pointed out that while the choice to assert the Fifth Amendment typically cannot be held against a defendant in a criminal case, it can have adverse consequences in a civil case. A judge has the discretion to draw a negative inference from a witness’ refusal to provide testimony.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Trump’s adult sons, testified last week that they relied on the company accountants responsible for preparing the annual financial statements. However, their testimony did not dispel the claims made by the New York Attorney General. Judge Arthur Engoron, presiding over the trial, has already ruled the defendants liable for fraud and ordered the cancellation of their New York business certificates. The trial, expected to continue until late December, will address six additional claims brought by James against the Trump family. Trump has filed an appeal against Engoron’s pretrial ruling, currently pending as the trial progresses.
As the trial proceeds, the outcome holds significant implications for Trump’s business interests and political aspirations. The testimony of the former president and the weight of the evidence presented will determine whether the allegations of financial fraud are substantiated. For now, the trial remains ongoing, and further updates are anticipated. The results will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the business and political landscapes, shaping the trajectory of Trump’s future endeavors.