Former President Donald Trump arrived in a New York courtroom Monday for the start of the civil fraud trial against him, his eldest sons, their companies and Trump Organization executives.
Opening statements in the civil trial over inflated assets in fraudulent financial statements come less than a week after a shocking ruling by Judge Arthur Engoron that found Trump and his co-defendants are liable for “persistent and repeated” fraud.
The ruling was a significant victory for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the $250 million lawsuit last September alleging that Trump and his co-defendants committed repeated fraud in inflating assets on financial statements to get better terms on commercial real estate loans and insurance policies.
The trial may also give the public a closer look at Trump’s business operations and net worth.
Trump inflated his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion in three separate years between 2011 and 2021, according to the attorney general’s office. Attorneys for Trump have refuted the claims, arguing that asset valuations are highly subjective and that they are still sorting through what the ruling means for the company’s future.
Here’s what to know:
Trump and his companies could be forced to pay hefty sums in damages for the profits they’ve allegedly garnered through their fraudulent business practices.
Engoron will consider just how much the Trumps and their businesses will have to pay.
The judge is expected to consider claims of business records fraud and insurance fraud alleged in the lawsuit in connection to high-profile properties, though he already determined some broad level of fraud was perpetuated.
The six causes of action are falsifying business records, conspiracy to falsify business records, issuing false financial statements, conspiracy to falsify false financial statements, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
James’ lawsuit also asks the court to consider banning the Trumps from serving as officers of a business in New York and to stop the company from engaging in business transactions for five years.
The full scope of Engoron’s ruling last week is not clear heading into trial.
At a hearing Wednesday after the ruling came down, Trump attorney Chris Kise asked the judge: “And don’t take this the wrong way, but what in the court’s mind does this trial now look like? Like what are the issues?”
The judge canceled the business certifications of the Trump entities that are defendants in the case, including the Trump Organization. A receiver must now be put in place to “manage the dissolution” of corporate entities, per the order.
Questions remain as to how the receiver would dissolve the properties; whether the ruling would impact properties outside of New York state, including Mar-a-Lago; and whether the Trumps could transfer the New York-based assets into a new company out of state.
Kise said his legal team is unsure what Trump entities are included under the ruling, noting that there are more than 400 or 500 entities.
Engoron said that Trump’s team can have 30 days to produce a plan for the receivership.
Donald Bender, a longtime Trump Organization tax consultant, is expected to testify as the attorney general’s first witness.
The former president, his adult children and his closest business advisers are all listed as potential witnesses for both the attorney general and the defense. Being listed as a potential witness, however, does not mean they will be called to testify.
While Trump can opt to waive his presence at the civil trial, attorneys for the former president have indicated that he is eager to testify in court.
Trump previously sat for a deposition in the case and said Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, and his staff “primarily” prepared the financial statements. Trump said he had little “if any” role in preparing the financial statements after 2015, when he began his campaign for president.
Most of the listed potential witnesses have also testified in videotaped depositions.
Ivanka Trump is listed as a potential witness, though a state appellate court ruled in June that charges against the former president’s eldest daughter should be dismissed because they don’t fall within the statute of limitations.
Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and several other current and former Trump Organization employees are also listed as potential witnesses. Weisselberg, who served prison time at Rikers Island per a plea deal for criminal tax fraud connected to his time at the company, is also expected to take the stand.
Engoron will be the lone decider in this civil bench trial, rather than a jury of New Yorkers.
The judge set aside three months for the trial, but it’s unclear whether the case will take that long now that Engoron found Trump and his co-defendants liable of fraud.
In pictures: Trump in court for civil fraud trial
The trial is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET and end at 4:30 p.m. each day except Fridays, when the trial will adjourn at 1 p.m. for the judge to tend to other court business.
Increased security has been put in place in downtown Manhattan ahead of the trial, a spokesperson for the New York State Unified Court System told CNN.
The former president, who’s actively campaigning for a second term, faces an increasingly packed calendar of criminal and civil litigation as the 2024 election nears.
When Trump’s attorneys in this civil case sought to delay the trial, the New York attorney general argued that even a brief delay would “wreak havoc” on the trial schedule as it could cause conflicts with his upcoming cases in other courts.
Trump faces four criminal indictments handed down this year, as well as other civil litigation.
A second go-around with writer E. Jean Carroll in Manhattan federal court over civil defamation claims is scheduled to go to trial in January. Trump, who was already found liable for defamation by a jury in a similar case with Carroll last year, can waive his appearance at that civil trial.
Two criminal cases against Trump are scheduled for trial in March in New York and Washington, DC.
In DC, the federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith is expected to go to trial in early March.
In New York, the former president faces 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal the reimbursement of hush money payments made to an adult film actress. The judge in that case has signaled he might shift the trial start date to accommodate the action in DC.
Smith’s case alleging Trump mishandled classified documents is slated to go to trial in Florida federal court in late May.
A trial date has not been set in the election subversion case against Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants in Fulton County, Georgia. However, the trial judge has determined it will not begin before the end of this year, teeing up the potential for additional scheduling conflicts in the thick of the 2024 election cycle.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.