As Trump returns to court, judge in his fraud trial clarifies comments ex-president took as a win
By MICHAEL R. SISAK and JENNIFER PELTZ Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge indicated Tuesday that he's not embracing former President Donald Trump's view that most claims in his civil business fraud trial are too old for court, as the defense had hoped the judge would after the trial's first day.
With Trump voluntarily in court for a second day, Judge Arthur Engoron set the record straight about a comment that the ex-president had claimed as an important victory.
The issue: Engoron had suggested on Monday that testimony about Trump's 2011 financial statement might be beyond the legal time limit applicable to New York Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit, which alleges that Trump and his business chronically lied about his wealth on financial statements given to banks, insurers and others. The relevant statute of limitations bars claims related to activities before a date in 2014, and Trump's legal team has argued that the time limit cuts off most of the case.
Engoron said Tuesday that "statutes of limitations bar claims, not evidence" and that at the trial's early stage, he's inclined to give both sides considerably leeway to connect older evidence to claims in the lawsuit.
"I want to emphasize: This trial is not an opportunity to relitigate what I have already decided," Engoron said. He ruled last week that all the claims were allowable under the statute of limitations.
A lawyer for James' office, Kevin Wallace, went on to suggest that he was using the 2011 document to show that Trump's financial statements were prepared in the same manner — giving him and his company the final say over the valuations that appeared — for at least a decade.
After Monday's sometimes fiery opening statements, Tuesday's court action centered on the more plodding task of going through years of Trump's financial documents. An accountant who prepared his financial statements for years was back on the witness stand for a second day.
Trump denies any wrongdoing. The Republican former president and current 2024 GOP front-runner claims that James, a Democrat, is wielding the justice system as a political cudgel to hobble his ongoing campaign.
Trump spent a full day Monday as an angry spectator at the civil trial, using the waiting cameras in a courthouse hallway as a microphone for political messaging and his defense. His tone was more subdued as he arrived Tuesday, but his message was no less emphatic.
"This case should be dismissed. This is not a case," he declared.
James already scored an early victory when Engoron, a Democrat, ruled last week that Trump committed fraud by exaggerating the size of his penthouse at Trump Tower, claiming his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida was worth as much as $739 million and putting similar oversized valuations on office towers, golf courses and other assets.
The non-jury trial concerns six remaining claims in the lawsuit and how much Trump might owe in penalties. James is seeking $250 million and a ban on Trump doing business in New York. The judge has already ruled that some of Trump's companies should be dissolved as punishment.
Trump's lawyers said the financial statements were legitimate representations of the worth of unique luxury properties, made even more valuable because of their association with Trump.
The trial is expected to last into December.
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