Trump trial testimony ends after months of fireworks in and outside courtroom

Testimony has wrapped in the $250 million civil fraud trial against former President Donald Trump and his company after more than two months of fireworks in and outside of the courtroom.

The final witness was Eric Lewis, an accounting professor at Cornell University, who New York Attorney General Tish James’s office put on the stand Wednesday to rebut the testimony of an NYU accounting professor who testified earlier on Trump’s behalf.

Judge Arthur Engoron is expected to issue his verdict and findings sometime next month, after both sides present their closing arguments on Jan. 11.

The trial started on Oct. 2nd, and there were 44 days of testimony featuring 25 witnesses for the AG’s office, 19 defense witnesses and two rebuttal witnesses — fewer than originally proposed.

James’ office set out to show how financial statements Trump used to get favorable loans from banks were steeped in fraud with grossly inflated values. Trump’s team tried to show he did nothing wrong, that the statements were largely accurate and that any mistakes weren’t his fault. Along the way were plenty of spectacles, with testimony from the former president and his family members, gag orders, fines, angry exchanges and dramatic showdowns.

Here’s a look at some key moments from the trial.

A former president on the witness stand

While Trump abruptly decided not to take the stand in his defense earlier this week, the former president spent a remarkable day on the witness stand as part of the AG’s case last month, where he repeatedly ripped into James and Engoron.

“I think she’s a political hack,” Trump said of James, also labeling Engoron a “very hostile judge, extremely hostile judge.”

Trump said he was especially upset with Engoron’s pretrial finding that Trump had committed persistent fraud.

“He ruled against me and he said I was a fraud before he knew anything about me, nothing about me,” Trump said of Engoron, who has overseen legal disputes between Trump and the attorney general’s office for years.

A spat over Mar-a-Lago

Out of all the fraud claims lodged by the AG, the one that appeared to bother Trump the most was one involving his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The AG’s office noted that Trump valued Mar-a-Lago at between $426 million and $612 million on his financial statements between 2011 and 2021. The Palm Beach County Assessor, meanwhile, appraised the property’s market value to be between $18 million and $27 million in the same time period. The AG’s office also noted the financial statements valued the property as a private home, while Trump had signed an agreement with the county that it could only be used as a social club.

Trump repeatedly complained about the AG citing the tax valuation and Engoron’s pretrial finding that not disclosing the club restriction was fraudulent. “The judge had it at $18 million. And it is worth, say, I say from 50 to 100 times more than that. So I don’t know how you got those numbers,” Trump testified, adding later that he thinks it’s actually worth “between a billion and a billion five.” He’s also complained about the valuation to reporters in court on the days he’s attended the trial, at political rallies and on his Truth Social website.

The second to last defense witness in the case, Palm Beach real estate broker Lawrence Moens, brought a video he shot of the property with him that he played during his testimony. He said he valued the property at over $1 billion, and invited the AG to tour the property in person. “I’ll make sure he is not there when you come,” he said, referring to Trump.

Trump was slapped with a gag order, and penalized for defying it

Trump attended several days of the trial, and some of his comments to reporters during breaks came back to bite him. On the second day of trial, Trump referred reporters to a post on his social media platform Truth Social, where he shared the identity of the judge’s law clerk and falsely accused her of having a personal relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“You saw what was just put out about Schumer and the principal clerk? That is disgraceful,” Trump said. The judge ordered the post be removed and issued a gag order barring Trump from talking about his court staff, saying such attacks “are unacceptable, inappropriate and I won’t tolerate it.” He later fined Trump $5,000 after it was revealed the post was still on a campaign website weeks later and threatened further sanctions, including jail time.

The judge later expanded the gag order to include Trump’s lawyers as well. Trump’s attorneys are appealing the gag orders and the fines against their client.

Trump storms out of the courtroom

On Oct. 25, Engoron fined Trump another $10,000 after finding he told reporters outside the courtroom that Engoron is “a very partisan judge with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

The judge took that as a reference to his law clerk, who sits next to him and who Trump had alleged was politically biased against him. He ordered Trump to take the witness stand, and he testified he was referring to that day’s witness, his former attorney turned outspoken critic Michael Cohen.

Trump has publicly called Cohen all sorts of names since he turned against him, but “partisan” has not been one of his insults. The judge said he found Trump’s testimony “not credible” and fined him. “Don’t do it again, or it will be worse,” Engoron warned. 

A short time later, Trump stormed out of the courtroom- seeming to surprise his lawyers and his Secret Service agents.

Michael Cohen arrives at New York Supreme Court.
Michael Cohen arrives at New York Supreme Court, on Oct. 24.Yuki Iwamura / AP

Trump reunited with an old friend-turned-foe

Michael Cohen’s testimony was the first time he’d come face to face with his former boss in five years. James has said she launched her investigation into Trump after Cohen testified about his business practices to the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill in 2019.

Trump came to court for Cohen’s testimony and appeared to be enjoying himself while his attorney Alina Habba got Cohen to acknowledge he’d lied under oath in a previous court case. Cohen, who said he was involved in preparing some of the financial statements, also said Trump never directly told him to inflate values. Trump used that statement to declare victory in the case to reporters and his lawyers asked the judge to rule in the case in their favor.

Under further questioning from the AG, Cohen testified it wasn’t Trump’s style to make direct requests. He compared Trump to a “mob boss” who tells you what he wants without directly telling you.

Former accountant blames the Trumps

The AG’s first witness was the Trump’s former accountant, Donald Bender. Bender testified that he compiled the financial statements, called statements of financial condition, using information and valuations provided to him by executives at Trump’s company, the Trump Organization. He said he relied on company officials, including former CFO Allen Weisselberg and senior vice president Jeff McConney, to provide him with accurate information. Asked at one point if he’d subsequently learned the company had been holding information back from him, Bender said, “Yes.” He said that they’d failed to turn over “paper documents over a number of years.”

Weisselberg and McConney testified as well. All three had also testified in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization last year. The company was convicted and fined and Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to falsifying business records, was sentenced to five months in jail.

Eric Trump during his civil fraud trial at the New York State Supreme Court in New York City on November 3, 2023.
Eric Trump at the New York State Supreme Court in New York City on Nov. 3.Dave Sanders / Getty Images

Trump family blames the accountants

The former president, his sons  Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., Weisselberg and other company officials all pointed a finger back at Bender and their other accountants during their testimony.

“All I did is authorize and tell people to give whatever is necessary for the accountants to do a statement. In other words, we supplied them with what they needed. And if they didn’t get it, they wouldn’t do the statement,” Trump said.

Trump Jr., who’s now running the company with his brother, said “I rely on the accountants” for the statements. “They were intimately involved in every aspect” of the statements, he said.

Eric Trump said, “I relied on a very big accounting office. I relied on one of the biggest accounting firms in the country. And I relied on a great legal team, and when they gave me comfort that the statement was perfect, I was more than happy to execute it.” He also suggested the statements weren’t the type of thing he paid much attention to. “I pour concrete. I operate properties. I don’t focus on appraisals,” he said.

Ivanka Trump, a former executive at the company, also testified during the AG’s case and said she was not involved with the statements, but assumed they were documents that “he would work on with his own accountants.”

Trump accounting expert says ‘no evidence’ of fraud

The final defense witness was Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at NYU. Bartov, who was paid almost $900,000 for his work on the case by Trump’s company and his political action committee, testified that “my analysis shows the statements of financial condition for all the years were not materially misstated.”

“My main finding is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any accounting fraud,” he said.

The judge asked him whether his expert opinion from an accounting perspective was that the AG’s claims had no merit. “Absolutely,” he replied.

Trump, who attended the trial on the first day of Bartov’s testimony, called Bartov “a very strong witness, a very powerful witness and a highly respected person.”

A fond farewell

At the start of the last day of testimony Wednesday, Engoron said, “In a strange way. I am going to miss this trial. It has been an experience.”