Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial enters its final phase on Thursday as each side presents closing arguments in a case that has enraged the former president and threatens his family business.
Lawyers for the New York attorney general, who sued Mr. Trump in 2022, will argue that the former president violated laws when he fraudulently exaggerated his net worth to obtain favorable loans. The accusation strikes at the heart of Mr. Trump’s presentation of himself as a real estate visionary and has made the attorney general, Letitia James, one of his chief antagonists.
Ms. James’s lawyers will highlight evidence from the monthslong trial, including internal emails and the testimony of onetime Trump employees, asserting that Mr. Trump’s actions warrant a severe punishment. Ms. James wants to extract a $370 million penalty, and to oust Mr. Trump from his own company and the wider world of New York real estate.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers will offer a competing narrative: that Ms. James fell woefully short of showing that the former president had orchestrated fraud in his annual financial statements and that the statements themselves were essentially irrelevant to the loans he received. They will most likely point to the testimony of Mr. Trump’s bankers, who extolled the former president as a reliable borrower.
“No bank or underwriter was, or would have been, materially misled by the alleged misstatements,” defense lawyers wrote in legal papers, noting that current and former Deutsche Bank employees had testified that the bank did its own “extensive due diligence” on Mr. Trump’s net worth.
While Mr. Trump had hoped to speak in his own defense on Thursday, the judge overseeing the case, Arthur F. Engoron, imposed limits on his remarks. Justice Engoron ruled that the former president could not deliver “a campaign speech” or attack the judge, his staff or Ms. James.
Mr. Trump’s legal team objected, apparently scuttling his plan to speak. He is, however, still expected to attend the closing arguments.
Early Thursday morning, Nassau County authorities responded to a bomb threat at Justice Engoron’s home. The threat came the morning after Mr. Trump again attacked Justice Engoron on Truth Social, his social media site, saying that the judge and Ms. James were trying to “screw me.”
The former president took the stand as a witness during the trial, delivering a chaotic and emotional performance.
“Trump is not a credible witness,” the attorney general’s lawyers wrote in a closing brief that doubled as a preview of their argument. “He was evasive, gave irrelevant speeches and was incapable of answering questions in a direct and credible manner.”
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Justice Engoron, who will decide the verdict alone — there is no jury — has been persuaded by Ms. James’s arguments in the past. Even before the trial, he ruled in her favor, finding that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating his assets and thus his net worth. The bulk of the trial concerned whether his conduct had violated other New York laws, as well as the potential punishments.
In his testimony, Mr. Trump attacked Ms. James as a “political hack” and the proceeding as “a very unfair trial.” Still, he acknowledged helping to assemble his financial statements, remarking, “I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions.”
Mr. Trump is not the only defendant. His adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are also on trial, as is the Trump Organization itself. The Trump sons were also called to testify by Ms. James and distanced themselves from the drafting of the financial statements. The Trumps have assailed Ms. James, a Democrat, as a partisan enemy.
The trial has been contentious, with Mr. Trump and his lawyers frequently attacking Ms. James, the judge, and the judge’s chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield. After the former president attacked Ms. Greenfield on social media, Justice Engoron barred him from commenting on court staff, and fined him $15,000 for twice violating that order.