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Closing arguments concludes in Trump civil fraud trial in New York

Former 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 Jan. 11, 2024.
Timothy A. Clary
/
AFP via Getty Images
Former 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 Jan. 11, 2024.

Updated January 11, 2024 at 5:49 PM ET

Closing arguments were given today in a civil fraud trial that alleges former President Donald Trump lied about his wealth. A final decision from New York Judge Arthur Engoron is expected in the coming weeks.

Trump and his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are accused of knowingly committing fraud by submitting financial statements that inflated the value of their properties and other assets. The lawsuit alleges that from 2011 to 2021, Donald Trump and his organization created more than 200 false valuations to inflate his net worth by billions of dollars with the goal of getting better business, insurance and banking deals.

New York Attorney General Letitia James' legal team is urging the judge to impose a $370 million penalty, up from an original $250 million, and to limit Trump's ability to conduct business in New York state.

In closing statements, Trump's legal team focused on two arguments: Trump and his associates had nothing to do with the creation of the fraudulent statement condition and, regardless, there is no victim.

The former president was present in the morning, arriving after campaigning in Iowa. Despite originally saying he wouldn't, Engoron allowed Trump to speak for five minutes during which Trump argued the trial was a political witch hunt. He reiterated this claim during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"They don't have any evidence against us," Trump said. "Millions and millions of pages, years of litigation and all politically motivated."

James' legal team laid out how they believe the fraud was "central to the operations of the Trump Organization's business" and claimed that the money he got through low interest rates even helped fund Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"This case has never been about politics or personal vendetta or about name calling," James said after the hearing was adjourned. "This case is about the facts and the law and Mr. Donald Trump violated the law."

Former President Donald Trump departs for a break in the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York City on Dec. 7, 2023.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump departs for a break in the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York City in December.

What has happened so far

Engoron has already determined that there was fraud and that the former president, his sons and other executives are liable.

Throughout the trial, legal teams have argued over whether or not notable Trump properties, such as Manhattan's Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, were valued incorrectly on purpose.

Documents shown during trial ranged from spreadsheets of the valuations to signed financial statements. The attorney general's legal team demonstrated inflations such as when the Trump Tower triplex was marked as being almost 11,000 square feet in 1994, then later as 30,000 square feet. A Forbes magazine article originally shed light on the discrepancy in 2017.

The former president and three of his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, all took the stand to testify about the valuation process and their involvement. Testifying in November, Trump argued the estimated property values were actually conservative, and he said that he relied on others to compile the statements. His two sons also testified they similarly relied on others, such as their accounting firm, to come up with the numbers — even as emails and documents showed they ultimately approved them.

In closing briefs submitted last week, the Trump legal team doubled down on the argument that Eric, Donald Jr. and Donald Trump did not have knowledge or involvement in the creation, preparation or use of the fraudulent financial statements.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.