Former President Donald Trump aims to deliver his own closing argument Thursday in his New York civil business fraud trial in addition to his legal team’s summations, according to two people familiar with the highly unusual plan.
Trump is a defendant in the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She claims his net worth was inflated by billions of dollars on financial statements that helped him secure business loans and insurance.
An attorney for Trump informed Judge Arthur Engoron earlier this week that the former president wished to speak during the closing arguments, and the judge approved the plan, according to one of the two people who spoke to The Associated Press. Both persons who confirmed the plan did so on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information to reporters.
The Trump campaign and a spokesperson for James declined to comment.
The former president and current Republican front-runner denies any wrongdoing, and he has condemned the case during a peppery day of testimony, on social media and in verbal comments in the courthouse hallway. In recent days on his Truth Social platform, he called the case a “hoax,” dismissed the months-long proceedings as as a “pathetic excuse for a trial” and criticized the judge and attorney general, both Democrats.
But delivering a summation would be another matter.
Although some people represent themselves, it’s very uncommon for defendants personally to give summations if they have attorneys to do so. Trump has several, and he isn’t a lawyer himself.
ABC News first reported Trump’s plan.
In closing arguments, both sides give their views of what the evidence has shown and why they should win. It’s each camp’s last chance to try to persuade the ultimate decision-maker — in this case, Judge Engoron.
Trump’s plans regarding the trial have changed before. In December, he was scheduled to testify as a witness for a second time, but he canceled the day before, saying he had “nothing more to say.”
James’ office says Trump, his business and some top executives defrauded banks and insurers by hugely goosing the values of assets such as his triplex at Trump Tower in New York and his Mar-a-Lago club and residence in Florida.
The state claims the bigger numbers got Trump better rates, while lenders and insurers didn’t get the information they needed to make a truly informed assessment of the risk they were taking on and what they should charge for it.
The “defendants reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains through their unlawful conduct,” state lawyers wrote in a court filing Friday. They are seeking $370 million in penalties, plus interest, and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.
The defense says Trump more than qualified for the deals he got — and say he upheld his end of them, including by repaying all the loans. He and his lawyers maintain that his financial statements were clearly offered as unaudited estimates that recipients should check out for themselves, and that the net worth numbers were far too low, not the opposite. Any overstatements were just errors too small to affect the bottom line, the defense says.
“There have been no losses to any party, as the loans here were negotiated between very sophisticated parties,” Trump lawyers Christopher Kise and Michael T. Madaio wrote Friday in court papers. “Lenders made their own informed decisions.”
Engoron will weigh claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. He has said he hopes to have a verdict by the end of this month.
He decided the lawsuit’s top claim before trial, ruling that Trump and other defendants engaged in fraud for years. The judge then ordered that a receiver take control of some of the ex-president’s properties, but an appeals court has frozen that order for now.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.