Trump planning to deliver closing argument in civil fraud trial

Former President Trump intends to deliver his own closing argument this week in the sprawling New York fraud trial threatening his business empire, according to multiple reports.

Trump, the Trump Organization and several top executives — including his adult sons — are accused by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) of falsely altering the value of the business’s assets on key financial statements to receive tax and insurance benefits.

The former president himself plans to issue a final summation in his defense Thursday, as the trial comes to a close, ABC News and The Associated Press reported. Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the bench trial and will ultimately decide the verdict, approved the plan, according to a source who spoke with the AP.

Throughout the trial, Trump has leveraged the spotlight to decry the case as politically motivated — on the witness stand and in courthouse hallway stump speeches. Engoron, his court staff and James, who brought the case in 2022, have each been the subject of Trump’s rage.

It would be very unusual for the former president to give a closing statement in the fraud case, as he is not representing himself and has several lawyers to do so.

If Trump does personally issue remarks, it would be his last chance to persuade Engoron. Trump and the judge repeatedly butted heads throughout the trial, primarily over a gag order the judge imposed barring the former president and his counsel from commenting about his principal law clerk.

Engoron found Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud ahead of the trial, recasting the trial’s focus on other claims including conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsified business records. Trump’s legal team has appealed the decision.

The New York attorney general’s office asked the judge to force Trump to pay nearly $370 million as a penalty and to issue a lifetime ban on the former president and two top executives from doing real estate business in New York. The office also asked for a five-year ban on the participation of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the former president’s adult sons, in the New York real estate industry.

Engoron has said he could issue a decision in the case as soon as this month, once closing arguments are complete.