Judge blocks Trump from delivering closing statements in New York fraud trial

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York has rescinded permission for the former president to give closing statements on Thursday, after his attorneys failed to agree to “lawful, reasonable limits” for his remarks.

According to a series of email exchanges with Judge Arthur Engoron and attorneys in the case from a court filing on Wednesday, the judge agreed last week to let Mr Trump deliver remarks on the condition that he only discuss “relevant, material facts that are in evidence”.

“He may not ‘testify.’ He may not comment on irrelevant matters,” the judge wrote to attorneys on 5 January, according to a court filing.

Mr Trump “may not deliver a campaign speech” or impugn the judge, court staff and attorneys, Judge Engoron wrote.

Attorney Christopher Kise replied that he “cannot agree” to those stipulations.

The judge told him that the conditions are “not up for debate.”

Following the death of Mr Trump’s mother-in-law, Mr Kise asked the judge to postpone closing arguments entirely until 29 January, at the earliest. The judge rejected that request but extended a deadline on whether Mr Trump would agree to the terms of his closing arguments until 11am on Wednesday. Mr Kise called the conditions “unfair”.

“I won’t debate this yet again,” the judge fired back at 11:54am on Wednesday. “Take it or leave it. Now or never. You have until noon, seven minutes from now. I WILL NOT GRANT ANY FURTHER EXTENSIONS.”

At 12:12pm, Judge Engoron rescinded the offer.

“Not having heard from you by the third extended deadline ... I assume that Mr Trump will not agree to the reasonable, lawful limits I have imposed as a precondition to giving a closing statement above and beyond those given by his attorneys, and that, therefore, he will not be speaking in court,” he wrote.

A lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses Mr Trump, his two adult sons and their chief associates in the Trump Organization umbrella of defrauding financial institutions with grossly inflated estimates of his net worth and assets over a decade.

Judge Engoron’s damning pretrial judgment found the defendants liable for fraud outlined in the blockbuster suit, leaving a bench trial to determine how much Mr Trump and his associates should owe, and whether the attorney general is successful on other claims in her complaint, including insurance fraud and conspiracy.

Witness testimony in the lower Manhattan courtroom concluded last month after roughly 11 weeks.

A pair of gag orders issued by the judge in the bench trial prohibit parties and attorneys from disparaging the judge’s staff. A state appeals court upheld those terms, after court officials revealed the wave of death threats and violent messages that followed Mr Trump’s outbursts.

On the trial’s second day, the former president spread false claims about Judge Engoron’s principal law clerk on his Truth Social, prompting the judge to order Mr Trump to delete the “untrue” and “disparaging” statements before issuing a first gag order that blocks Mr Trump and all parties in the case from attacking the court’s staff.

The judge later found that Mr Trump violated the order twice, incurring $15,000 in fines. He also issued an order to include Mr Trump’s attorneys, who then appealed.

In his emails to attorneys, the judge warned that Mr Trump could be “cut off” from speaking, removed from the courtroom and fined $50,000 if he were to violate the gag order during closing arguments.

Last week, in final briefs to the court before closing arguments, lawyers with Ms James argued that evidence collected by her office, including expert witness testimony and courtroom testimony from Mr Trump himself, is “conclusive” and prove “numerous” acts that the lawsuit’s central claims.

The attorney general argues that Mr Trump and his co-defendants should be forced to pay more than $370m and be effectively barred from doing business in the state.

Attorneys for both parties will have two hours and 15 minutes to present their closing statements.

Judge Engoron has indicated that he will issue a final judgment by the end of the month. Mr Trump’s attorneys already have appealed the pretrial ruling and are expected to appeal any additional sanctions.