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Trump says he won’t return to witness stand in $250m New York fraud trial

<span>Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump announced he would not take the witness stand for a second time at his fraud trial in New York on Monday, the former US president’s last chance to make his case as he combats a potential $250m fine that hangs over his family business.

Trump had been expected to take the stand again as the hearings draw to a close. But on Sunday he announced on the Truth Social site that he would no longer be making an appearance.

Related: Trump tests federal gag order with attack on Bill Barr: ‘He was a coward’

“I HAVE ALREADY TESTIFIED TO EVERYTHING & HAVE NOTHING MORE TO SAY OTHER THAN THAT THIS IS A COMPLETE & TOTAL ELECTION INTERFERENCE (BIDEN CAMPAIGN!) WITCH HUNT, THAT WILL DO NOTHING BUT KEEP BUSINESSES OUT OF NEW YORK, I WILL NOT BE TESTIFYING ON MONDAY. MAGA!” he wrote, signing off with the abbreviation for his Make America great again slogan.

Trump first testified in court on 6 November, an appearance that was more political rally than attempt to persuade judge Arthur Engoron of his innocence. Engoron has already ruled that fraud took place and is using the trial to weigh what punishment he will mete out.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has argued that Trump, his adult sons and other company executives inflated the value of their assets in order to obtain more favorable loans.

Over the past few weeks, Trump’s team has argued through witness testimony that the former president had the right to value his properties however he pleased, and that it was up to lenders and accountants to make sure the numbers were right.

In his Truth Social posts, Trump once again attacked James and Engoron and said they have massively undervalued his assets. “THEY CLAIMED THAT MAR-A-LAGO WAS WORTH ONLY $18,000,000, WHEN IT IS WORTH 50 TO 100 TIMES THAT AMOUNT, IN ORDER TO ILLEGALLY REDUCE MY VALUES & MAKE A FAKE CASE AGAINST ME,” he wrote.

When Trump and his adult children took the witness stand, they denied recalling any specific discussion over the financial statements, despite multiple emails and notes that suggested otherwise.

During his testimony in November, Trump repeatedly claimed his financial records contained a “worthless clause” and that lenders knew they should do their own due diligence, rather than relying on the documents. In his pre-trial ruling, Engoron had already ruled the argument “worthless”, but Trump continued to bring it up on the stand.

Because Trump was already found guilty of fraud in a September pre-trial ruling, the trial has been over whether Trump and his family knew they were inaccurately representing the value of their assets on financial documents. If found guilty of doing that, Trump will have to pay a fine that could be at least $250m. Trump would also lose his New York business licenses – which would make it impossible for him to run his real estate business in the state – if an appeals court upholds the pre-trial judgment.

Emotions have run high in the case. Trump was gagged from commenting on Engoron’s courtroom staff after a series of attacks led to the judge’s office being bombarded with death threats and abusive messages.

Trump attended the trial last week as a defense witness argued that the case was without merit and there was “no evidence of fraud”.

“I hope everyone is watching the Kangaroo Court Witch Hunt taking place against me, led by a totally corrupt and Racist A.G., and a highly partisan Judge who made his decision before the trial even started, and before he knew anything about the case,” he wrote on Truth Social.