Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trump’s lawyers call on judge to end Manhattan fraud trial immediately

Defense attorneys claimed that moving forward with the case would be a waste of "taxpayer dollars."

MANHATTAN (CN) — Donald Trump’s lawyers on Thursday asked a judge to end the former president’s $250 million fraud trial immediately, one day after the New York attorney general's office conditionally rested its case

The witness stand stayed empty on Thursday. Instead, Trump’s attorneys gave a roughly two-hour presentation to Judge Arthur Engoron, complete with a modest PowerPoint slideshow, as they argued the state had failed to prove the defendants intentionally defrauded banks and insurers with inflated financial statements. 

“There’s no victim. There’s no complaint. There’s no injury,” Trump’s lead attorney Chris Kise said — just as Trump himself has claimed.

“We’ve wasted taxpayer dollars,” defense lawyer Alina Habba said of the trial.

Kise walked Judge Arthur Engoron through a series of arguments, aided by his slides, that outlined the defense attorneys' request for a directed verdict in their favor. He took careful aim at Michael Cohen’s testimony. 

“He admitted to perjury,” Kise said, adding that Cohen has “lied in every court he has ever appeared in.”

Referring to Cohen as the state’s “key witness” against his clients, Kise referenced Cohen’s “astonishing” claim that Trump asked him to alter the value of his assets in the statements of financial condition, without explicitly saying the words.

“This is the most astonishing part of Cohen's testimony,” Kise said. “That somehow Donald Trump speaks in code… This is not someone who speaks in code.”

Judge Engoron countered with a quip about Trump’s infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, which prompted Trump’s 2019 House impeachment

That call “might have been code,” Engoron said. He later clarified that the incident wouldn't factor into his ruling. 

Engoron didn’t rule immediately on the Trump team’s Thursday request for a directed verdict. He is expected to issue a written ruling in the coming days. 

Thursday wasn’t the first time the defense lawyers made such an ask. In late October, they twice requested a directed verdict immediately following Cohen’s testimony. Engoron swiftly denied both, prompting Donald Trump to abruptly and angrily storm out of the courtroom during the dramatic proceedings.  

Engoron said at the time that the case “has evidence all over the place” and denied the assertion that Cohen was a “key witness” for the state.

Judge Engoron allows defense to call four expert witnesses

Following the directed verdict debate, the state made an unsuccessful attempt to block Trump’s lawyers from calling four expert witnesses to testify. Andrew Amer of the attorney general’s office told the judge that allowing the witnesses would be “a total waste of time and resources.”

“The court has found that the statements were already inflated,” Amer said. “Defendants have to live with and abide by that ruling at this trial.”

Amer claimed Trump’s lawyers were calling on the experts — Steven Laposa, Jason Flemmons, Steve Witkoff and David Miller — only to testify against Engoron’s September summary judgment finding the defendants liable for the case’s top fraud count.

“They are not free to ignore this decision,” Amer said, adding that the four witnesses are “simply not relevant to any remaining issues in this case.”

Kise took issue with the state’s ask.

“I suggest that Mr. Amer check the internet. Vladimir Putin has some openings, that’s where he belongs,” Kise said in his fiery rebuttal. “If I were you, Your Honor, I’d be insulted by that. They don’t want you to hear evidence.”

Engoron called Kise’s comments “uncalled for.”

“I think you should apologize,” Engoron said. Kise later did. 

Following Thursday’s lunch break, Engoron denied attorney general’s request.

“I don’t want a retrial of this case,” the judge said. “I don’t want to be reversed… I’m going to allow the testimony without prejudice to objecting to anything that may be irrelevant."

Engoron clarified that the experts won’t be allowed to testify that the Trump's statements of financial condition were accurate, as the judge already ruled that they were fraudulently inflated by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“That’s clearly material,” Engoron said. “I don’t need an expert to tell me that.”

Follow @Uebey
Categories / Business, Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.