Former President Donald Trump’s legal efforts to suspend his New York fraud trial faced another setback as an appeals court dismissed his latest bid to halt the proceedings.
Trump’s legal team contended that the court should await an appeal on a pre-trial ruling before moving forward with the trial, which commenced on Monday.
In a ruling delivered the previous week, New York Judge Arthur Engoron had found Trump, alongside other individuals associated with the Trump Organization, liable for financial fraud. Engoron’s verdict included an order to dissolve Trump’s companies operating in the state, essentially terminating his capacity to manage his real estate ventures.
Trump faces a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleging that he fabricated false and misleading financial statements to facilitate business deals.
In their plea to halt the trial, Trump’s lawyers contended that the dissolution would inflict “severe and irreparable harm” not only on Trump and the other defendants but also on innocent parties and employees reliant on the affected businesses for their livelihoods.
The cancellation of business licenses “without a fair trial and without justification renders it impossible for the lawful operation” of the enterprises, their request argued, further asserting that Judge Engoron “clearly does not grasp the extent of the upheaval triggered by [his] ruling.”
The appellate court seemed inclined to sympathize with this argument. On Friday, it issued a stay on Engoron’s order requiring a list of Trump businesses in the state, all of which would face dissolution under his ruling. These dissolutions will proceed if the appellate court, which is yet to render a verdict on Trump’s appeal, upholds Engoron’s decision.
Trump’s legal team had already lodged an appeal against the September 26 ruling, issued just days before the trial’s initiation. This ruling redefined the scope of the trial, which now chiefly revolves around determining whether Trump will incur financial penalties for fraudulent activities, potentially amounting to at least $250 million.
It’s important to note that the trial is a bench trial, meaning there is no jury involved. Additionally, this is a civil case, implying that Trump will not face incarceration if found culpable.
This marked Trump’s latest effort to stall the trial. An appellate court on September 28 rejected a request to dismiss the entire trial, permitting it to commence on October 2. Trump had also attempted to file a lawsuit against Judge Engoron, though he eventually abandoned the lawsuit on Thursday.
Letitia James’ office expressed its willingness to discuss postponing the enforcement of Engoron’s ruling until after the trial. This offer comes with a stipulation that the trial proceeds as scheduled, and a decision on the remaining six claims in James’ lawsuit against Trump and other defendants will be determined at a later stage.
Senior Assistant Solicitor General Dennis Fan argued against “disrupting an ongoing trial midway,” highlighting the substantial planning and security resources dedicated to Trump’s presence during the initial three days of testimony. This included special arrangements for press and public access, in addition to the potential impact of a delay on witnesses who had scheduled their participation.
“The defendants can continue to try to delay and stall, but the evidence is clear, and our case is strong. We are confident justice will prevail,” James stated.
In the trial’s initial five days, prosecutors sought to establish Trump’s and his inner circle’s accountability through witness testimonies. Two of Trump’s accountants testified that the responsibility to provide them with accurate information rested with Trump and his organization. Meanwhile, Jeffrey McConney, a former Trump Organization executive and a defendant in the case, also took the witness stand.
McConney admitted to assigning “brand premiums” to the value of Trump’s properties and affirmed that the company included seven unbuilt mansions, each estimated at $23 million, in its valuations for Trump’s Westchester county estate.