Trump planning to personally deliver part of closing argument at fraud trial, report says

Trump planning to personally deliver part of closing argument at fraud trial, report says

Former president Donald Trump is planning to deliver the closing argument in his New York civil business fraud trial on Thursday along with his legal team's summations, according to reports.

The 45th president is a defendant in a $250m civil case brought by New York attorney general Letitia James alleging years of fraud within his real estate empire.

Her lawsuit claims the former president and his co-defendants defrauded banks and other financial institutions by inflating his net worth and assets by billions of dollars on financial statements that helped him secure business loans and insurance.

Judge Arthur Engoron was informed by Mr Trump's attorney earlier this week that the former president wished to speak during the closing arguments, the Associated Press reported, citing two anonymous people familiar with the matter.

Mr Trump's unusual bid to speak was approved by the judge, according to the report. While some defendants represent themselves, it’s unusual for them to personally give summations if they have attorneys to do so.

The Republican frontrunner has denied all wrongdoing and condemned the case as a "hoax" and a "pathetic excuse for a trial" while criticising both the judge and the attorney general.

Earlier in December, Mr Trump was scheduled to testify as a witness for a second time, but he canceled the day before, saying he had “nothing more to say".

The attorney general's office last week said Mr Trump's estate empire should be forced to pay more than $370m and effectively barred from doing business in New York for 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 “defendants reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains through their unlawful conduct”, state lawyers wrote in a court filing on Friday.

According to the filing, evidence collected by the attorney general’s office, expert witness testimony and courtroom testimony from the former president, as well as his adult sons and co-defendants Donald Trump Jr and Eric Jr, was “conclusive”.

Judge Engoron is expected to issue a decision by the end of January. The judge’s pretrial ruling effectively ordered the dissolution of Mr Trump’s New York-based real estate empire, what the former president has labelled the “corporate death penalty” against him.

That order has been put on hold pending appeal while the trial played out in lower Manhattan.

Mr Trump’s attorneys have argued that he was more than qualified for the deals he got – and say he upheld his end of them, including by repaying all the loans.

His financial statements were offered as unaudited estimates that recipients should check out for themselves, and that the net worth numbers were far too low, not the opposite, the defence added.

“There have been no losses to any party, as the loans here were negotiated between very sophisticated parties,” Mr Trump’s lawyers Christopher Kise and Michael T Madaio wrote Friday in court papers.

“Lenders made their own informed decisions.”