By Jack Queen
(Reuters) – Testimony concluded on Wednesday in Donald Trump‘s civil fraud trial in New York, where the former U.S. president is accused of lying about his net worth to dupe lenders.
The lawsuit by the New York attorney general seeks to fine Trump at least $250 million and sharply curtail his ability to do business in New York, home to several of his iconic properties.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has denied wrongdoing and called the case a “scam.”
The judge presiding over the case, Justice Arthur Engoron, is expected to issue a verdict in writing after closing arguments on Jan. 11.
Engoron has already ruled that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, largely limiting the trial to damages. Trump is appealing.
The trial began on Oct. 2 and centered on financial documents and expert testimony. It also featured closely watched trips to the witness stand by Trump, his adult children and his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
During defiant and meandering testimony in November, Trump acknowledged that asset valuations on his financial statements were inaccurate but said any errors were irrelevant to banks that used them to price his loans.
Trump also lashed out at New York Attorney General Letitia James, an elected Democrat, who brought the case, and Engoron, accusing them of political bias against him.
Trump lobbed the same grievances in inflammatory remarks to reporters during his occasional court appearances, which he complained were interfering with his campaign.
Trump had free rein to attack James and Engoron but was barred from speaking publicly about court staff under a limited gag order imposed after he posted about the court’s top clerk on social media.
Engoron fined Trump a total of $15,000 for twice violating the order, which Trump is appealing.
The case carries potentially grave consequences for Trump’s real estate empire, the source of his sizable wealth and springboard into politics.
In September, Engoron found Trump liable for fraud and canceled business certificates for crown jewels of his portfolio, including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.
That order is on hold while Trump appeals, and Trump is almost certain to appeal any verdict against him.
Trump faces a raft of other legal troubles as he campaigns to face President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election, including four criminal cases. He has pleaded not guilty in all four.
None have diminished his commanding lead over rivals for the nomination. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed Dec. 11 found that 61% of Republicans said they would for Trump in the state-by-state nominating contest to pick a challenger to Biden.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)