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Testimony ends in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, but the verdict isn’t expected until next month

The case threatens to disrupt the 2024 Republican front-runner’s real estate empire and even stop him from doing business in his native state

Former U.S. President Donald Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the courtroom during a break, as he attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in New York City, December 7, 2023.MIKE SEGAR (REUTERS)

After 10 weeks, 40 witnesses and bursts of courtroom fireworks, testimony wrapped up Wednesday in former President Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial. But a verdict is at least a month away.

Closing arguments are set for Jan. 11, and Judge Arthur Engoron has said he hopes to decide the case by the end of that month. The case threatens to disrupt the 2024 Republican front-runner’s real estate empire and even stop him from doing business in his native state.

The verdict is up to the judge because New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the case under a state law that doesn’t allow for a jury.

“In a strange way, I’m gonna miss this trial,” Engoron mused aloud Wednesday before the last hours of testimony, which were about accounting standards.

James’ lawsuit accuses Trump, his company and key executives — including sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — of deceiving banks and insurers by giving them financial statements that padded the ex-president’s wealth by billions of dollars.

The suit claims the documents larded the value of such prominent and and personally significant holdings as his Trump Tower penthouse in New York and his Mar-a-Lago club and home in Florida, as well as golf courses, hotels, a Wall Street office building and more.

The defendants deny any wrongdoing, and Trump has made that vehemently clear on the witness stand, in the courthouse hallway, and and in frequent comments on his Truth Social platform.

“A total hit job,” he railed Wednesday in an all-caps post that reiterated his complaints that there was “no jury, no victim.” Both James and the judge are Democrats, and Trump casts the case as a partisan attack.

Trump not only testified but voluntarily sat in on several other days of the trial. He wasn’t there Wednesday to see testimony conclude. James, who has attended with some regularity, watched from the courtroom audience.

Trump took a significant legal hit even before the trial, when Engoron ruled that he engaged in fraud. The judge ordered that a receiver take control of some of the ex-president’s properties, but an appeals court has frozen that order for now.

The trial concerns remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. James is seeking penalties of more than $300 million and wants Trump to be banned from doing business in New York.

The trial gave the court and onlookers a view into Trump’s properties — sometimes quite literally, as when a real estate broker played a drone video of Mar-a-Lago while testifying for the defense.

Much of the testimony consisted of deep dives into loan underwriting, property appraisal methods and financial practices. For every magazine-like photo of a Trump property, there were many pages of accounting rules or lines of charts and spreadsheets.

The proceedings also featured extensive and sometimes fiery testimony from the former president. Three of his adult children and his former fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen also took the stand.

Trump’s out-of-court comments became an issue in the trial, spurring a gag order that barred all the participants from commenting publicly on the judge’s staff. The order, which Trump has decried and his attorneys are appealing, came after he maligned the judge’s principal law clerk

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