NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial will continue next week after he lost a bid to postpone it on Friday.
Trump card wanted to terminate the process as he fights a pretrial ruling that could strip him of control of assets like Trump Tower. An appeals judge rejected the request for a stay but agreed that control of the holdings will remain as is for now.
Friday’s decision came five days after the start of the closely watched trial, which drew Trump to the courthouse for observation – and brilliant – for days this week.
Trump’s lawyers had the state’s intermediate appeals court asked To suspend the trial of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ complaint and prevent Judge Arthur Engoron from enforcing a ruling he made last week. Engeron’s decision revoked the Republican presidential candidate’s business licenses and transferred management of his companies to a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.
“This is a huge mistake. It is irreparable,” Trump lawyer Christopher Kise told appeals judge Associate Justice Peter H. Moulton. Kise argued that the ruling will leave defendants in other cases fearing that their businesses and property will be seized without recourse.
“We are not looking for a delay. We strive for a fair trial,” said Kise.
Trump’s lawyers said the ruling could harm not only the former president and other defendants, but up to 1,000 employees.
James’ office has spoken with the defense about delaying enforcement of Engoron’s sentence during the trial, assuming it proceeds, Judy Vale, the state’s assistant attorney general, told the appeals judge.
“We could have solved some of that, and we’re still happy to do that,” Vale said.
She called the defense’s arguments for a delay “completely baseless” and noted that conducting the trial had been “an enormous undertaking.” It required extensive court planning, security resources for Trump’s presence and special arrangements for press and public access.
Ahead of the hearing, James said Trump and the other defendants “may continue to try to delay and delay, but the evidence is clear and our arguments are compelling.”
She declined to comment afterward, as did Trump’s lawyers.
The appeals court last week rejected a last-minute push by the defense to postpone the trial just days before it began. On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers dropped a lawsuit they had filed against Engoron as part of that challenge.
Engoron ruled last week that Trump committed years of fraud as he built the real estate empire that brought him fame and the White House.
The judge who ruled on the main claim in James’ lawsuit concluded that Trump regularly deceived banks, insurance companies and others by exaggerating in his financial statements the value of assets used for business and securing loans were used.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and argued that some of his assets were worth far more than listed in the statements.
Ahead of the appeal, former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney testified in court on Friday that the values he attributed to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida – up to $739 million in 2018 – were based on the based on false assumption that this could be sold as a private home. Such use is prohibited by Trump’s 2002 agreement with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Did you know that Mr. Trump had given up his right to use the property for purposes other than a social club?” asked prosecutor Andrew Amer.
“I didn’t know,” said McConney, who is also a defendant in the case.
The trial continues Tuesday with Trump’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg on the witness stand. Weisselberg, a defendant, oversaw Trump’s business deals, helped secure loans and oversaw McConney’s work on financial reports. He left prison in April after serving about 100 days for tax evasion on $1.7 million in employment benefits.
While the trial was taking place this week, Engoron issued an order on Thursday setting out the procedures for enforcing his sentence. He gave both sides until Oct. 26 to submit names of potential bankruptcy trustees and gave Trump and other defendants seven days to provide a court-appointed observer, retired federal judge Barbara Jones, with a list of all the companies covered by the ruling.
He also ordered defendants to give Jones advance notice of any applications for new business licenses in any jurisdiction, as well as any attempts to form new companies to “hold or acquire the assets” of a company that is being dissolved pursuant to the judgment will inform.
Trump’s lawyers argued in court filings that Engoron had “no justification or legal authority” to impose what they called a “corporate death penalty.” They also criticized the judge for not clearly stating the real impact of his decision.
At a pretrial hearing on Sept. 26, Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, pressed Engoron to clarify whether his ruling meant Trump would simply have to close some corporate entities or whether he would be forced to give up some of his most valuable assets.
Engoron then said he was “not ready to make a decision at the moment.”
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed.