Former President Donald Trump and New York Attorney General Letitia James are now facing off in a courtroom in lower Manhattan as the trial for a $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, gets underway. The lawsuit, filed by James’ office, accuses Trump and others at the Trump Organization of widespread fraud.
The defendants in the case include Trump, his children Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, several company executives, and the Trump Organization itself. James’ office has accused them of fraud, falsification of business records, issuing false financial statements, and conspiracy, among other allegations. The attorney general claims that Trump overstated his wealth and the value of his properties on financial statements while seeking loans.
While there is no possibility of jail time in this civil lawsuit, Trump is also facing criminal charges filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleging felony falsification of business records. However, Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Trump arrived in court for the opening statements on Monday morning, expressing on his social media platform, Truth Social, his intention to fight for his name and reputation. The judge presiding over the case is Arthur Engoron, who previously held Trump in contempt for refusing to turn over documents subpoenaed by James’ office.
The trial is expected to last at least until December 22, with Engoron deciding if the defendants are liable and determining any damages and additional penalties. Trump, his children, and Ivanka Trump are on the preliminary witness lists, but it is unclear if they will be called to testify.
New York state law does not normally allow cameras in the courtroom, so the trial will not be televised or livestreamed. However, a handful of still photographers were allowed to take photos during the opening statements.
Prior to the trial, Engoron ruled that Trump overvalued his properties and misrepresented his net worth while pursuing bank loans. The ruling ordered the cancellation of Trump Organization business certificates and the dissolution of some of Trump’s companies by an independent receiver.
Trump has denied the fraud allegations, calling them an attempt to hurt him in an election. He has also criticized Engoron, calling him a “political hack” and a “deranged, Trump-hating judge.”
Letitia James, a Democrat, has served as the New York attorney general since 2019. She has a history of taking on powerful political figures and began investigating Trump in 2019 after testimony from his former attorney, Michael Cohen.
In a statement released ahead of the trial, James emphasized the importance of the rule of law and stated that Trump inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system.
Trump’s legal team, led by attorney Christopher Kise, argues that the overvaluations are examples of Trump’s “genius” and his ability to find value where others see none.
As the trial continues, the outcome will have significant implications for both Trump and James, potentially affecting their reputations and future legal battles.