Trump expected in court as New York fraud trial resumes

NEW YORK – Donald Trump was expected to attend his New York civil fraud trial when it reconvenes on Tuesday, a day after the former US president was slapped with a partial gag order in a separate criminal case.

The 77-year-old Republican, who on Monday continued his campaign to retake the White House with rallies in Iowa, is not required to attend the hearings in New York.

But Trump did not miss his chance in the first three days of the trial to appear before news cameras and portray himself as the victim of a Democratic plot to interfere in his presidential campaign.

New York’s attorney general has accused Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr and other executives of colossally inflating the value of their real estate assets in order to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

Trump does not risk going to jail in the civil trial, but Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of the former president and his sons from the management of the family empire, the Trump Organization.

Outside of the courtroom, Trump has repeatedly attacked James, who is Black, as “corrupt” and “racist.” He even denounced a court clerk on social media, prompting a sharp reprimand and a ban on doing it again by the judge overseeing the case, Arthur Engoron.

Attacks

Facing indictments in several other criminal cases, Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has publicly railed against his mounting legal woes as a “witch hunt” meant to hurt his campaign.

On Monday, the federal judge set to preside over his trial for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election barred Trump from making any public comments aimed at prosecutors, court staff and witnesses.

“A TERRIBLE THING HAPPENED TO DEMOCRACY TODAY – GAG ORDER!” the real estate tycoon shot back on his social media platform Truth Social.

That trial is due to open on March 4 in Washington, the day before one of the biggest events in the Republican primaries, the so-called “Super Tuesday,” when around fifteen states hold their nominating votes.

The return on Tuesday of the ex-president to his civil trial, confirmed to AFP by a spokesperson, could have meant an explosive face-off with Trump’s former lawyer turned sworn enemy, Michael Cohen, but the latter’s testimony was postponed for medical reasons.

Trump is also expected to be present at the hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Before his New York trial began, Engoron ruled that Trump, his sons and other executives lied to tax collectors, lenders and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.

He ordered measures to confiscate and liquidate Trump companies, which could lead to the dismantling of Donald Trump’s real estate empire, but their application was suspended on appeal. –AFP