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Trump says he won't testify as planned in his civil fraud trial

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom with his attorneys Joe Tacopina and Boris Epshteyn (right) during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4 in New York City.
Andrew Kelly/Pool
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Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom with his attorneys Joe Tacopina and Boris Epshteyn (right) during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4 in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump says he will not be testifying as planned in the civil trial over allegations that he lied about his wealth.

"I have already testified to everything & have nothing more to say," wrote Trump on his social media site Truth Social on Sunday.

Trump took the stand last month, but was slated to testify for the defense on Monday.

In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said that regardless of whether Trump testifies again, "we have already proven that he committed years of financial fraud and unjustly enriched himself."

Announcing his decision not to appear, Trump disparaged the New York attorney general and called the judge presiding over the case, Judge Arthur Engoron, "biased."

Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, restated his false claims that the 2020 elections were stolen, specifically accusing President Biden's campaign of "election interference," and calling the case against him a witch hunt. In fact, Trump himself is separately facing federal charges of election interference.

What the case is about

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

James, who sued Trump after a three-year investigation, seeks $250 million in damages and aims to stop Trump from doing future business in New York.

Closing arguments and a final decision from Engoron regarding any penalties are not expected until the new year.

Who has testified so far

Trump was slated to be the final witness for the defense team following a slew of accountants and other expert witnesses.

Witnesses for the attorney general's team included past allies Michael Cohen andAllen Weisselberg.

Cohen testified that it was his responsibility, along with that offormer Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Weisselberg, "to reverse engineer the very different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the numbers" Trump had asked for.

Weisselberg, however, testified that he couldn't remember if he discussed the financial statements with Trump as they were finalized.

Testimony from the Trump children — Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka — laid the blame of the fraudulent financial documents onto others, such as the accounting firm the Trump Organization worked with.

There's a gag order in place

A gag order placed on all parties, including the former president, is back in place after it was temporarily lifted earlier this month.

The gag order prohibits either party in the trial from commenting about Engoron's staff.

According to court filings, Engoron's legal clerk has received dozens of calls to her cellphone, as well as social media messages and emails. Engoron has said his chambers have received hundreds of threatening calls, letters and packages.

Trump has already been fined twice, totaling $15,000, for violating the order. Any testimony from the former president could have put the order to the test once again.

What Trump said on the stand before

Testifying in November, Trump argued the estimated property values were actually conservative, and he said that he relied on others to compile the statements.

Trump also alleged that the attorney general was politically motivated in pursuing the case, and Trump made jabs aimed at Engoron, including saying that the judge "always rules against" him.

This prompted a frustrated Engoron to call on the Trump legal team to "control" their client.

Copyright 2023 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.
D. Parvaz
D. Parvaz is an editor at Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, she worked at several news organizations covering wildfires, riots, earthquakes, a nuclear meltdown, elections, political upheaval and refugee crises in several countries.
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