A Manhattan judge held firm on plans for a jury trial this autumn in the $250 million lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump, his adult children and his business of fraud.
“This case is complex, but it’s not complicated,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron declared in court on Tuesday. “It all boils down to whether the statements of financial condition are true, and the rest as Rabbi Hillel famously said, is all commentary.”
Trump’s attorneys asked the judge to postpone the Oct. 2 trial by six months, deep into the presidential campaign season. Attorney Christopher Kise returned to court with a more modest request of a couple of weeks, which would move the trial to Oct. 23.
Engoron remained skeptical of the request.
“I don’t want to move this trial, not only because I said I don’t want to move it,” said Engoron, noting that he thinks it isn’t necessary.
Ultimately, his original trial date held firm.
“As if this case isn’t exciting enough”
Tensions ran high in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, the date that former President Trump announced on his social media platform would be the day he is arrested. There is no indication that is true, and the grand jury reconvenes on Wednesday. That did not stop demonstrations from cropping up outside of Manhattan Criminal Court, a little more than a block away. That is where a grand jury reportedly has been eyeing hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, who fired off a faux-naif tweet to mark the occasion.
“Wow! It’s a beautiful morning,” Daniels wrote on Twitter. “It’s always been my dream to sip coffee on my farm porch and watch my gorgeous horse graze. Anything exciting going on today?”
Wow! It’s a beautiful morning. It’s always been my dream to sip coffee on my farm porch and watch my gorgeous horse graze. Anything exciting going on today?
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 21, 2023
Proceedings in the civil lawsuit were delayed a half hour after a courtroom clerk announced a “security issue” affecting the complex of courthouses in lower Manhattan. That threat was resolved shortly after, with the clerk announcing: “We’re all safe.”
Once proceedings began, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron made a quip about the disruption.
“As if this case isn’t exciting enough on its own, we have a disturbance this morning,” Engoron said.
With much of the press and public focused on a possible criminal case, proceedings in one of the most high-profile civil cases in memory still commanded considerable public interest.
“The whole world is watching this courtroom,” Trump’s lawyer remarked, alluding to the reporters filling the pews of the gallery.
“Everyone was doing it”
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) alleges that Trump, his children and his businesses have a pattern of wildly inflating or deflating their assets to reap tax benefits. She claims that Trump estimates the size of his Trump Towers triplex at three times its actual square footage. Trump Organization also valued rent-stabilized units more than 66 times higher than an outside appraiser, she says. These discrepancies and others, she says, warrant her massive proposed civil penalty.
In addition, James wants to permanently bar Trump and his children named in the lawsuit — Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump — from serving in a New York corporation. James also wants the Trump Organization to remain under the watch of a court-appointed monitor, a relief that the attorney general already has received. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered pretrial monitoring late last year.
Justice Engoron previously signaled plans to stick to that trial date “come hell or high water.” Engoron quoted his own remarks in sticking to his original date.
Even after that warning, Trump’s legal team pushed for another adjournment. They argued that the AG’s three-year investigation required more time to review a massive evidence haul that included interviews with more than 65 witnesses and millions of pages of documents.
Trump’s attorneys Alina Habba and Clifford Robert argued that, without more time, the trial would be “simply a one-way ticket on a railroad to the Attorney General’s predetermined destination.”
In commenting on the simplicity of the case, Engoron noted that Trump’s defenses would be limited under New York law. He said that “Everyone was doing it” and “Those parties could reach their own conclusions” are not legal defenses.
“‘No harm’ is not a defense,” either, he added.
Eliminating all doubt, Engoron said of the trial date: “That’s written in stone.”
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