Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he arrives at the New York State Supreme Court during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, in New York City on Dec. 7, 2023.
Timothy A. Clary | Afp | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday returned to the $250 million civil fraud trial that threatens his business empire and his family’s ability to work in the Empire State.
Trump has wielded the wall-to-wall media coverage generated by his prior court appearances as a club against the case, which he decries as a politically motivated witch hunt.
It’s also a prime opportunity to raise money for his 2024 Republican presidential campaign — and whip up support from his base.
In a campaign fundraising email entitled “Returning to Court,” Trump slammed the trial while noting that the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are less than 40 days away.
“In some ways, I will still be on the campaign trail today,” Trump said in the email, claiming the image of him in court will remind voters of “just how corrupt our government has become.”
But he may have to watch his words more carefully this time around. Trump’s gag order in the case was reinstated last week after being temporarily suspended while his lawyers challenged it in an appeals court.
The gag order bars Trump from making public statements about the staff of Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the ongoing trial.
Engoron had imposed the gag order on Trump after the former president repeatedly targeted the judge’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield.
“There is only so much I can say to you at this time,” Trump said in the fundraising email.
Trump is still allowed to publicly criticize the judge and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case. James accuses Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and its top executives of fraudulently inflating the values of Trump’s real estate properties and other key assets for financial benefits. The defendants falsely inflated Trump’s net worth by billions of dollars over the course of a decade to get tax benefits and better loan terms, among other perks, James alleges.
En route to court, Trump on Truth Social railed against both Engoron and James, while claiming that a New York appeals court has already decided the case in his favor.
In reality, Engoron has already ruled that Trump and the other defendants are liable for fraudulently misstating the asset values. The trial will determine penalties and resolve other claims of wrongdoing in James’ lawsuit.
Trump was previously questioned on the stand while the state laid out its case. He is scheduled to be called up again Monday as the final witness for the defense.
The trial is expected to end in January.
Trump, a native of Queens, New York, who now lives in his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, is apparently expected to stick around New York in the meantime. He is scheduled to be the keynote speaker of the annual gala of the New York Young Republican Club on Saturday. The black-tie event at Wall Street’s swanky Cipriani venue will also feature Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.