In a reversal, Eric Trump will not testify as Trump fraud trial winds down

    Eric Trump will no longer take the stand as a defense witness in the $250 million civil fraud case against the Trump family and their company, a top official said Tuesday.

    The announcement was a surprise because Eric Trump, the second-oldest of the former president’s three sons, had been scheduled to testify Wednesday as one of the final witnesses in the case. The reversal came because “everything Eric was going to cover was covered by other witnesses,” Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president, told NBC News.

    The reversal means the trial will be down Wednesday and will resume Thursday, with testimony from accounting expert Professor Eli Bartov of NYU. Eric Trump’s father, former President Donald Trump, is likely to attend the trial as a spectator on Thursday, his attorney Chris Kise told reporters Monday.

    Trump will appear as the final defense witness next Monday.

    Lawyers from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office will put on a brief rebuttal case with two witnesses Tuesday. Each side will then have time to file legal arguments with Judge Arthur Engoron before closing arguments, which are scheduled to take place Jan. 11. Engoron has said he expects to issue a written ruling in the weeks after that.

    Engoron’s decision has the potential to be disastrous for the Trumps and their company. The attorney general is seeking up to $250 million in damages and the judge already found in a pretrial ruling that Trump had committed repeated acts of fraud and that a number of his New York-based limited liability companies should be dissolved.

    The trial began Oct. 2. Since beginning their defense case last month, the Trumps have pushed back on the attorney general’s assertion that Trump’s financial statements grossly overvalued numerous properties. Their defense has included testimony from Trump employees, real estate valuation experts and bankers who said that property valuations can vary wildly and that in some instances properties might have been undervalued. Their first witness was Donald Trump Jr., who runs the company with his brother and gave a glowing review and overview of their properties.

    Trump attorney Alina Habba said Tuesday that Eric Trump had “already testified fully and well” in the case and that his testimony was “no longer necessary.”

    Garten, the Trump Org. official, said there was “no need” to have Eric Trump testify because “everyone universally testified to the fact that Eric just wasn’t involved in the SOFC (Statement of Financial Condition).”

    In his earlier testimony as a witness for the AG, Eric Trump was repeatedly pressed on his claims that he had never seen or worked on the company’s financial statements before taking the reins. Eric Trump said, “I didn’t know anything about it really until this case came into fruition,” but was then shown emails going back to 2012 referring to the statements and asking him for information about various properties.

    The former president got into several heated exchanges when he testified in November as a witness for James, repeatedly criticizing both the attorney general and Engoron, whom he called a “very hostile judge.”

    Trump will not be able to criticize another frequent target when he returns to court, the judge’s law clerk. Engoron issued a gag order barring him from talking about court staff after Trump smeared the clerk in a social media post. Trump has since complained that the clerk is biased against him and has been acting as a co-judge in the case, a claim Engoron has angrily denied.

    The gag order was stayed by an appeals court judge for two weeks last month, allowing Trump to resume his attacks on her. A full panel of appeals court judges from the state Appellate Division then lifted the stay after court officials submitted a filing saying threats against the clerk had increased when the gag order was paused.

    Trump is still appealing the underlying gag order, and on Monday petitioned the Appellate Division to let him immediately appeal the stay issue to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. The request was denied on procedural grounds. A judge is allowing him to make his arguments on an expedited basis, but that won’t be decided until after he takes the stand Monday.

    Kise complained to reporters Monday that the gag order puts his client at a disadvantage.

    “It’s hard to believe in America that the front-running presidential candidate in the United States of America is not allowed to talk about why he’s not getting a fair trial in New York. Unbelievable,” he said.

    In court Tuesday, Kise asked if Trump’s testimony could be delayed until the gag order issue was decided. Kevin Wallace of the AG’s office said “absolutely not” while Engoron said, “Nice try.”