Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in the courtroom with his lawyers for his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 03, 2023 in New York City.
Seth Wenig | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump returned to a New York court for the third day of his $250 million New York business fraud trial, a day after being slapped with a limited gag order for criticizing the judge’s law clerk.
The trial resumed Wednesday with the continuation of cross-examination of Trump’s former accountant Donald Bender in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Trump’s attorneys grilled Bender about his involvement in preparing financial statements for the Trump Organization.
Bender previously testified that he compiled the statements using information provided by Trump and his company.
Those statements are at the heart of the civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which is the subject of the trial.
The suit accuses Trump, his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and top executives of misstating the true values of real estate properties in order to obtain better loan and insurance terms, and tax advantages.
In addition to seeking $250 million in damages, James wants the court to permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from serving as officers of any New York business.
Bender, a former partner at Mazars USA, is the first witness called in the case, which is expected to last until late December.
Also Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers filed an appeal of a pre-trial ruling by Judge Arthur Engoron that found Trump and other defendants liable for fraud, the top claim in the lawsuit. Engoron in that ruling yanked the business licenses of various Trump corporate entities and ordered their dissolution.
The trial is dealing with the six remaining claims in the suit: falsifying business records, conspiracy to falsify business records, issuing false financial statements, conspiracy to falsify false financial statements, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Justice Arthur Engoron speaks during the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump for Trump’s civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 03, 2023 in New York City.
Shannon Stapleton | Getty Images
Before the trial resumed Wednesday, Trump outside the courtroom again called the case a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace,” and claimed James sued solely for political purposes.
Trump also called James, who is Black, a “political animal.”
James is a Democrat. Trump is currently the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
But Trump did not make any comment about Engoron’s law clerk, whom he had attacked Tuesday in statements to reporters and in a social media post. The clerk sits with Engoron during the trial and sometimes speaks with lawyers during the proceedings.
Trump’s post on Truth Social about her included her full name and a photo from her Instagram account of her posing with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Trump accused the clerk of being “Schumer’s girlfriend” and “running this case against me.”
An angry Engoron later Tuesday called the attack on his staffer unacceptable.
The judge ordered Trump to delete the Truth Social, and barred Trump and others in the case from talking about his aides publicly.
“Consider this a gag order on all parties with respect to posting or publicly speaking about any member of my staff,” Engoron said.
The trial is being conducted without a jury, meaning Engoron alone will deliver verdicts.
Trump on Wednesday reiterated claims that the New York state statute at issue in the case strips him of his right to a jury trial.
MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin said Trump could have asked for a jury trial, but that he likely would have been denied that request.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.