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Closing arguments to begin in the Trump civil fraud trial in New York

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Lawyers for New York state and for former President Donald Trump present closing arguments today in the trial involving his business practices.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Trump had initially said he wanted to argue on his own behalf in court today. What we're now expecting is a little less dramatic than that.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Andrea Bernstein has been covering the case. Andrea, so which of his many court cases is this one?

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: This is the case where the New York attorney general says Trump made hundreds of millions of dollars by repeatedly lying about the value of his properties, like his triplex in Trump Tower, which he claimed was worth three times as big as it actually was - about $300 million more than it actually was worth. This is important because banks and insurance companies made financial decisions based on these false statements.

Even before testimony began, the judge ruled that Trump had committed persistent and repeated fraud. So think about that. We have the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, who a judge has found lied over and over to illicitly profit.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what's on the line today?

BERNSTEIN: So there are six more causes of action to be decided. They involve conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying documents. The attorney general says Trump made $370 million more than he should have because he lied and that he owes that back to New York. The number actually went up after the trial testimony from 250 million. And the New York AG wants Trump permanently banned from doing business in New York and for his older sons, Don Jr. and Eric, to be barred for five years. But Trump's lawyers say no one was harmed, the banks made out and that the AG didn't prove her case.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. And Trump was supposed to - or at least planning to - give his own argument. What happened to that?

BERNSTEIN: So we've been through this a few times already in this trial. In an email chain released by the court yesterday, Trump's lawyers said he'd be making arguments on his own behalf. The AG objected, and the judge said, that's not really the normal course of business, but OK, Trump can speak if he sticks to the same rules as his lawyers - making legal arguments, not disparaging people or making a political speech. And Trump's lawyers said, nope, we don't agree. So the judge said, no dice. After that, Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, said, is anyone surprised anymore? That's a statement that can work on a lot of levels.

As of now, we don't expect Trump today. He was in Iowa last night at a town hall. But we expect a day of arguments followed by a verdict in the next few weeks.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. But Trump has another trial in New York next week. What's that one about?

BERNSTEIN: Right. So that is the second defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. Last spring, a jury found Trump had sexually assaulted her and then defamed her and awarded her $5 million. There were two major incidents of defamation and two cases. That was the second case, which, for complex legal reasons, was the first to go to trial.

This trial, starting Monday, is for the first instance of defamation, when Trump as president said, quote, "she's not my type." And as the judge in the case put it this week, quote, "the fact that Mr. Trump sexually abused - indeed, raped - Ms. Carroll has been conclusively established." So the only issue is how much money Trump owes her. It's expected it could be tens of millions of dollars or more, since the first instance of defamation is the one that really affected her reputation. So we could also see a verdict in that case sometime this month.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Thank you. That's NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thanks.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Andrea Bernstein