Former President Donald Trump, center, sits at the defense table with his lawyer Christopher Kise, left, and Alina Habba, at the New York Supreme Court, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in New York. PHOTO FROM AP FILE

NEW YORK – Donald Trump's lawyers rested their defense on Tuesday and sought again to immediately end the civil fraud trial in New York that threatens the former president's real estate empire. The judge said “I’m not going to grant that at all.”

Trump's lawyers — frustrated in a similar attempt last month — were rebuffed when they asked Judge Arthur Engoron to shorten the trial and issue a verdict clearing Trump, his company and top executives of any wrongdoing. The judge reiterated his feeling that the State's lawyers fulfilled their legal burden to bring the three-month trial to its conclusion.

New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges that Trump deceived banks, insurance companies and others by inflating his wealth based on financial statements used to secure loans and do business. Engoron has already spoken out about James' main allegation that Trump committed fraud.

Trump's lawyers renewed their request for what is known as a directed verdict a day after Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, missed a planned return to the witness stand as the defense's last major witness.

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise said the defense plans to submit documents to Engoron by the end of the week fully detailing the arguments for a targeted verdict.

“You'd be wasting your time, but I'm not going to tell you not to send me something,” Engoron said to Kise. But, he warned, “That doesn’t mean I’ll get it” or even read the written request.

State attorney Kevin Wallace complained that the risky proposal – essentially an academic exercise given Engoron's position on the issue – was a “colossal waste of resources.”

Final arguments are scheduled for January 11, just four days before the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential primary season. Engoron, who is deciding the case instead of a jury, which is not allowed in this type of process, said he hopes to have a decision by the end of January.

Trump's lawyers first asked for a targeted verdict on Nov. 9, after state attorneys rested the case. Engoron said he was considering the request “under consultation” and ordered the trial to proceed as scheduled.

A few weeks later, Engoron rejected the defense's request for a mistrial, denying its claims that he was politically biased and had irreparably harmed Trump's right to a fair trial through “surprising departures from normal standards of impartiality.”

Trump's lawyers moved again Tuesday to halt the trial after finishing with their final witness — an accounting expert who Trump praised after testifying that he found no evidence of accounting fraud in Trump's financial statements. Later, state lawyers began calling rebuttal witnesses. The testimony is expected to end on Wednesday.

The state's case involved six weeks of testimony from about two dozen witnesses, including Trump, his eldest sons Eric and Donald Jr., daughter Ivanka, outside accountants and Trump Organization executives.

The defense then called witnesses over the course of about five weeks. They included real estate developers and brokers, a former federal financial regulator and accounting gurus.

Donald Trump Jr. also returned to the witness stand, this time to present “The Trump Story,” a slideshow of golf courses, skyscrapers and gilded interiors. He hailed his father as a real estate visionary but made no mention of his casino bankruptcies or other ventures that failed or drew regulatory scrutiny.

The defense rested after the third and final day of testimony from New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov. Bartov criticized the State's case and said Trump's financial statements were “not materially misstated.”

In cross-examining Bartov, state attorney Louis Solomon sought to undermine the claim that Trump's major creditor Deutsche Bank failed to rely on its financial statements. Bartov previously emphasized in his testimony that the bank frequently reduced the amounts provided by Trump, and the professor concluded that such cuts were not merely “mechanical”, but rather the result of the bankers' own analysis.

Solomon noted that retired Deutsche Bank executive Nicholas Haigh testified that he believed such cuts were “standardized” to commercial real estate values ​​reported by customers.

“There is no contradiction between these two statements,” Bartov said. He opined that the bank would have sufficiently scrutinized Trump's assets to make sure it had the means to secure the loan, and then, to save staff work but still be conservative, the bankers would have applied a standard deduction to the holdings. remaining.

Later, Solomon asked about a Trump Organization calculation that put the net operating profit of a Wall Street office building at about four times the number listed by appraisers. If the Trump Organization's number were inflated, he asked, wouldn't the bank's adjustment also be too high?

“I don’t agree with your premise,” Bartov said, later explaining that the appraisers and the company used different methods for calculating yield.

In an unusual turn of events, Solomon also pointed to the defeat of one of his colleagues in another high-profile case to try to cast doubt on Bartov's views.

In the same court, Bartov once testified as an expert witness for the attorney general's office in its case accusing Exxon Mobil of misleading investors about the impact climate change regulations could have on its business. Exxon won the case, and Judge Barry Ostrager's ruling ignored the professor's testimony as “unconvincing” and “categorically contradicted by the weight of the evidence.”


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Trump lawyer Christopher Kise objected that the Exxon episode was irrelevant.



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