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Trump testimony takeaways: Ex-president lashes out at judge during civil fraud trial

The former president raged over his ongoing civil fraud trial while on the witness stand, lashing out at New York Attorney General Letitia James and Judge Arthur Engoron.

What to know

  • Donald Trump testified today in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud trial against the former president and others.
  • The former president repeatedly lashed out at James and Judge Arthur Engoron, prompting the judge to call on Trump's lawyers to "control" their client.
  • James has accused Trump; his eldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric; the Trump Organization and others of fraudulently inflating the values of Trump's assets for financial gain. She is seeking $250 million in penalties.
  • The trial is now in its fourth week, with Don Jr. and Eric having taken the stand last week. The AG's office is expected to rest its case on Wednesday after Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump's eldest daughter, testifies.

N.Y. AG James: 'I will not be bullied. I will not be harassed."

Trump and James separately addressed the press outside the courtroom after the former president's testimony wrapped up for the day.

While Trump called for the case to be dismissed "immediately," James told reporters that "this case will go on."

"I will not be bullied," she said. "I will not be harassed. ... Justice will prevail."

Why Trump's lawyers declined to cross-examine him

After the N.Y. AG’s direct examination concluded this afternoon, Trump’s lawyers declined to cross-examine their client. Obviously, it would have been more of a cross-examination of the state’s case rather than of Trump himself — at least, that’s what they would have hoped. But at any rate, they opted not to do that. Why?

A lawyer might decline cross-examination for any number of reasons, including that they don’t think the direct examination did enough damage that needs to be rectified — or, perhaps more to the point here, that cross-examination wouldn’t sufficiently rectify the damage done.

Of course, the defense will have the opportunity to present its own case, so stay tuned. And remember, as I noted earlier, this civil case is different procedurally from a criminal trial, where the prosecution would first present its case without calling the defense to the stand, and it’s then up to the defendant whether to testify or put on any evidence at all. 

There’s also the fact that this case has been proceeding in front of a judge rather than a jury. Had this been a jury trial — which, again, Trump isn’t entitled to in this sort of case — his lawyers might not have loved the idea of having jurors watch their client get pummeled by the government all day and then go home for the night without that testimony being challenged in a narrative way by opposing counsel.

Likewise, there can be a dramatic effect to foregoing cross-examination in front of a jury — as if to signal the foregoing lawyer’s view of the weakness of the case on direct examination. But given that any of the in-court theatrics here have been and will be for the benefit of Trump himself and/or his fans, there’s a different calculation at play here.

Expect Trump, Eric and Don Jr. to be called to testify again

In case you were wondering if Team Trump will present a case, the answer is absolutely. Chris Kise, Trump’s lead counsel, has just stated that he expects to begin their case in chief next Monday and conclude by Dec. 15, a week ahead of the anticipated end of the trial.

Avid court watchers can therefore expect that some of the witnesses called already in the AG’s case — notably Eric, Don Jr. and Donald Trump himself — will appear again as witnesses in the defense’s case in chief.

Team Trump foreshadows potential motion for mistrial

In the guise of housekeeping, Team Trump is foreshadowing motions they will make at the conclusion of the AG’s case, such as a motion for a mistrial or directed verdict. The lawyers are hinting that it has something to do with the subject of the existing gag order and likely concerns the judge’s principal law clerk, but not, as Trump attorney Aline Habba noted, her notes with Engoron.

Engoron instructs them that they cannot make such a motion to the extent that it would trigger the gag order.

Habba clarifies that the existence and content of the notes are not the subject of their anticipated motions. She asks if they can have an opportunity to be heard on those issues, even if they would fall within the gag order.

Engoron relents and says they may do so in writing; Habba pledges to do so “delicately.” Engoron asks them to do so through a procedural mechanism known as an order to show cause, which the judge will see but which is not filed until he signs it.

Neal Katyal: Where Trump's strategy was successful

Trump whines again about lacking a jury he isn’t entitled to

As he did yesterday — and not for the first time then — Trump complained in an afternoon rant on the witness stand about not having a jury in his civil fraud trial.

But there’s a simple reason he doesn’t have a jury: This type of case proceeding against him doesn’t use juries. Indeed, Trump’s own legal team previously pressed Judge Engoron to put on the record that this sort of case doesn’t entitle Trump to a jury, to make it clear why they didn’t ask for one.

Trump steps off the witness stand as testimony wraps up

Trump is off the stand for the day. The New York attorney general's office has completed its direct examination of the former president. Trump's legal team has elected not to cross-examine him.

Trump says what happened to Weisselberg was 'sad'

Judge Engoron says Trump sounds like a “broken record.” Trump's legal team predictably disagrees, with Trump attorney Christopher Kise insisting that it’s the AG who has been repetitive by focusing on minutia in contracts they were not entitled to enforce.

Wallace moves on and asks whether former Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg’s guilty plea to tax fraud caused him to change his opinion of the work Weisselberg did for him. Trump suggests Weisselberg was persecuted because of his association with Trump, and that what happened was “sad” because Weisselberg was simply trying to pay for the education of his grandchildren in a certain way.

Wallace asks if Trump was ever aware that Weisselberg was being compensated through an apartment paid for by the company? Trump acknowledges he knew.

Wallace then asks if he was aware that Weisselberg was reporting transactions inaccurately in the books and records of the company. Trump says he learned that only in connection with the tax fraud trial.

Asked whether he will be making changes to the internal controls of the Trump Org. based on what he’s learned from this lawsuit, Trump says, “It will depend on what the accountants say,” perhaps informed by lawyers. Trump says it’s possible that they will change and that he’s asked for a recommendation.

But when asked who he asked for such a recommendation, Habba is on her feet, strenuously instructing Trump not to answer questions about conversations that took place in the presence of counsel.

Wallace asks again, “Are you aware of any changes that will be made to the financial reporting systems of the Trump Organization?” Trump said he is expecting recommendations from accountants and lawyers and will be consulting with his son Eric.

After asking whether the Trump Org. will be hiring a chief compliance officer, to which Trump demurred and said it was recommended, the AG's office rests.

Expect this number to show up again in closing arguments

Wallace asks Trump now about the proceeds from the Old Post Office sale, which I have previously predicted could be key to the N.Y. attorney general's calculation of what profits from defendants’ fraud must be disgorged. The email reflects that Trump himself was expected to receive $126 million with each of the adult kids expected to receive roughly $4 million.

When asked how much profit he obtained from that transaction, Trump responded, “Above or around that number.” He was also asked if the total proceeds were $139 million, and again, he affirmed that the total was around or above that number.

Expect these figures to show up again in closing arguments, in briefing, or both.

Trump keeps pushing this line about his financial statements

One of Trump’s repeated themes today is that notwithstanding clear contractual language requiring the submission of his statements of financial condition and his certification that those statements were true and accurate, they were not important to the bank at all.

He has promised the bank will even testify to that effect. File that promise away for the defense’s case in chief, which is expected to begin Thursday or early next week.

Trump somewhat walks back claim on accuracy of certifications

Having examined Trump about his lending agreements with Deutsche Bank, Wallace asks Trump about the certifications he sent to the bank each year, as required in those loan agreements.

Trump just testified that contrary to his certification, the statements of financial condition were not accurate in all material respects because they did not include his brand value.

“Are you testifying these are not accurate?” Wallace asks.

Trump somewhat walks it back, testifying they were accurate but for the exclusion of his brand value, the error in the valuation of his apartment, and the overvaluation of Seven Springs, which he says he requested be lowered.

Trump grows angry during questioning on D.C. property

We’ve now moved on to the loan for the Old Post Office property, which Trump turned into the Trump International Hotel Washington DC, the unofficial clubhouse of the MAGA movement during his presidency. Trump famously sold the Old Post Office lease for $375 million last year, making this property ripe for disgorgement claims from the N.Y. attorney general. 

Put another way, if Trump and others deceived Deutsche Bank to get favorable lending terms and a lower borrowing rate, their profits from the sale of the property could be clawed back from various defendants.

Indeed, Wallace is now demonstrating how the Old Post Office loan agreement contains the same representations and covenants that Trump made in other Deutsche Bank agreements, including with respect to a minimum required cash balance, a minimum total net worth, and his obligations to provide fair and accurate financial statements for the current and prior years.

Trump is now not only insisting that he complied but that his assets, as a whole, were worth much more than the total value listed on his statements of financial condition. “The numbers are far greater than the $2.5 billion,” he insists, growing angry. “Therefore, you have no case.”

Trump's Chicago hotel takes center stage as testimony continues

Wallace, the state attorney, questions Trump about his loan agreement with Deutsche Bank for the Trump Chicago hotel and residences.

Trump not only guaranteed the residential and hotel segments of that loan but also made a series of representations and warranties to induce Deutsche Bank to lend to him. One of them is that his statements of financial condition are true and accurate in all material respects and present fairly his financial condition as of June 30 of each year.

The agreement also obligated him to have unencumbered “liquid assets” of not less than $50 million. Trump confirms he was aware of this obligation, and says he believes he complied, even if Deutsche Bank was only concerned with his cash on hand.

Trump also affirms that he understood Deutsche Bank required that he maintain a net worth of at least $2.5 billion, but he testifies that he could have presented a handful of assets and “they would have been satisfied.”

Trump back on the stand

It's been a rollercoaster of a day so far in the New York Supreme Court. We'll now see if Trump can stick to more concise answers to the state attorneys' questions amid growing frustration from Judge Engoron.

Where Trump's testimony has helped the N.Y. AG so far

During the lunch break, a colleague less steeped in the minutia of this case asked me whether the AG’s team is scoring any points, given how often Trump has digressed or ranted. Indeed, they have.

They have shown, for example, that despite having no memory of telling a Wall Street Journal reporter that a particular building was valued at $600 million, a contemporaneous email from his son showed he, in fact, did exactly that.

The AG's team has shown that despite much lower, and sometimes even negative net revenue from leasing that same building, Trump told a Forbes reporter — on tape — that that building “threw off” between $50-60 million per year, another conversation Trump did not recall.

They have shown that Trump’s financial statements dating back nearly a decade valued his Aberdeen property in Scotland as if he could sell thousands of homes tomorrow, when Trump admitted that he still has not used that property for anything but building a second golf course while holding onto 1,000 acres on which those residences were supposed to be built.

And perhaps most damning of all, they exposed that despite signing promises to the Town of Palm Beach and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that he would never use or develop Mar-a-Lago as anything but a private membership club, Trump valued Mar-a-Lago on his financial statements as a private residence, as if those contractual agreements were as disposable as Kleenex.

Now that we are back from lunch, the focus has turned to Trump’s borrowing relationship with Deutsche Bank and the representations made to it in connection with a series of loans. Will the next two hours be similarly productive? Watch this space.

Trump attorney can't — or won’t — control her client

Asked during the break if she’ll urge Trump to answer questions more concisely after a rambling morning of testimony that drew Engoron’s ire, Trump lawyer Alina Habba said she wouldn’t try to limit her client’s free speech.

To be sure, Trump’s free speech rights aren’t at issue here. A trial witness doesn’t have the right to answer a lawyer’s questions however they want to. For better or worse, judges are largely in control of managing that process.

So, another way of reading Habba’s answer is that her client is out of control, and she either can’t or won’t do anything about it.

Shocker: Trump takes Engoron’s comments out of context

After a rough morning in court, should we expect a disciplined Donald Trump to emerge in the afternoon session?

OK, the question answers itself. But we got some evidence that further confirms the obvious.

For one, Trump took to his Truth Social site during the lunch break to post a misleading statement that quoted Judge Engoron as saying: “NO, I’M NOT HERE TO HEAR WHAT [PRESIDENT TRUMP] HAS TO SAY.”

Putting the generous “President Trump” moniker aside, obviously, the judge is there to hear what the parties have to say. But the judge took Trump to task for his meandering testimony that didn’t answer the questions asked of him — key context that's missing from Trump’s social media post.

Trump can't seem to help himself

As Chuck Rosenberg said moments ago "Chris Jansing Reports":

I heard answers from Trump that were combative and evasive and not admissible. ... This is not an environment in which Mr. Trump thrives. If he wants to introduce evidence that is beneficial for him, he'll have a chance through his lawyers. The problem is ... he can't seem to help himself.

N.Y. AG fires off tweet during lunch break

The court is now in recess for lunch until 2:15 p.m. ET.

James, the New York attorney general, seized on the opportunity to take a jab at Trump, seeming to mock the former president's claim that she "doesn't know what a 40 Wall Street is," referring to one of his Manhattan properties.

Trump asked about Forbes report on 40 Wall Street value

Image: Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump testifies on the witness stand in New York Supreme Court today.Elizabeth Williams via AP

Wallace, the state attorney, moved on to Forbes’ reporting of Trump’s deceptions about his assets and liabilities. In a 2022 article, Forbes reported that Trump admitted in 2015 to his own involvement in bolstering his assets because a high net worth is "good for financing."

Trump at first denied he said anything to that point. But then, he softens and admits having a high net worth is helpful for some kinds of financing. At that meeting, Trump told Forbes that his 40 Wall Street property would "throw off" $50 million. Asked whether he said that, Trump testified that he doesn’t hold Forbes in high regard and “doesn’t think too much about what he says to Forbes.”

Trump says he has no recollection, even after hearing a 2015 recording of the meeting with Forbes, of attending that meeting.

Trump's pocket doc a fresh reminder that this trial is not normal

Normal witnesses don’t try to take papers from their pockets and then try to read them from the witness stand. But we got another reminder of how this is not a normal trial and how this isn’t a normal witness on the stand.

Unsurprisingly, Judge Engoron denied Trump’s attempt to do this — because it’s not a thing.

The judge previously called out Trump’s ‘worthless’ defense

As Lisa noted earlier, Trump has returned to his pet issue of the “worthless statement” clause that disclaims responsibility and insists that anyone receiving it must do their own due diligence and analysis.

Notably, in his pretrial ruling finding fraud liability, Judge Engoron called out this erroneous defense, writing, among other things, that the clause “does not say what defendants say it says, does not rise to the level of an enforceable disclaimer, and cannot be used to insulate fraud as to facts peculiarly within defendants’ knowledge, even vis-a-vis sophisticated recipients.”

Chuck Rosenberg examines 2 possible reasons for Trump rants

MSNBC legal contributor Chuck Rosenberg explored two possible reasons for Trump's outbursts on the stand today.

One possibility is that Trump is "trying to goad" Judge Engoron into saying something that could help Trump on appeal, Rosenberg said moments ago on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." For example, Trump's legal team could try to suggest the judge exhibited bias during the trial.

But Rosenberg noted that Engoron is "an experienced jurist” and it doesn't appear as though he's made any such statements.

Another possible reason for the rants: "It may just be that Mr. Trump is incoherent, that his answers make quite literally no sense."

At the end of the day, Rosenberg said, it's the judge who will determine the penalties for Trump.

As AG James predicted, Trump calls the trial a 'witch hunt'

“I think she is a political hack; she used this case to try to become governor…. this is a disgrace. All you have to do is read the legal papers and the scholars. This is a political witch hunt, and I think you should be ashamed of herself.”

The question was solely about whether he agreed with the AG office's position that “the statements of financial condition were overstated."

Trump yells moments later that Engoron "ruled against me before he knew anything about me. He called me a fraud, and he didn’t know anything about me. ... The fraud is on the court; not on me."

Trump is equally furious about Wallace’s questions, which are exploring why Mar-a-Lago is assessed differently for tax purposes than it is valued in Trump’s statements of financial condition.

Trump returns to his pet issue: the 'worthless statement' clause

Wallace asks Trump if he stands by the valuations of all other assets in the 2014 statement of financial condition (aside from the Trump Tower triplex apartment.)

Trump deflects, insisting that it’s been a long time since he looked at them. He says that he is worth billions more than the AG thought. Any overvaluations would be non-material, Trump maintains, before also acknowledging he hasn’t looked.

And then Trump returns to his pet issue: the “worthless statement” clause that disclaims responsibility and insists that anyone receiving it must do their own due diligence and analysis.

“If there was a mistake, it was non-material; but even if it was material, we have a disclaimer clause,” Trump argues. “I never got too involved with these statements because that clause is on page 1, as you well know; that’s why we shouldn’t be having a case here. That’s a clause every court in this country holds up except this particular judge.”

Wallace then asks whether it is Trump’s position that the statements were in fact “worthless,” which Trump also resists. “People like you try to demean me and hurt me,” he hurls at Wallace, and then he attacks AG James, too.

Questions for Trump on '$245 million increase' in valuation

Wallace has moved on to Trump properties abroad, specifically the Aberdeen development in Scotland. The supporting data spreadsheet presented by the attorney general's office reflects that the valuation as of June 30, 2014, had jumped by roughly $250 million over the prior year.  

As of 2014, Trump affirms he had not yet built a second golf course; rather, he testifies, “l am building it now.”

He digresses once again, declaring the Scotland property is "one of the greatest pieces of land I have ever seen."

Wallace refocuses Trump, forcing admissions that between 2013 and 2014, he did not build another golf course, hotel or even homes. Wallace states plainly, “I’m focused on how we got a $245 million increase between 2013 and 2014.”

Wallace later returns to the statement of financial condition, which refers to 1,486 homes, only 500 of which are described as single-family homes. The state attorney asks Trump to confirm that the number in the "backup data does not match the number of homes in the statement of financial condition."

Trump suggests it’s like a painting; the land is there, but “you can do what you want to do.”

Even worse, Wallace asked Trump to admit that in 2014, because of wind farms that had been put in, then-Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg told Scottish regulators that they did not intend to develop the property further.

When asked as of today whether he has yet to build homes at Aberdeen, Trump doesn't say yes; instead, he says “there’s nothing wrong” with holding on to that piece of property.

Trumps concedes: Less taxes because Mar-a-Lago is a private club

Tump insists nothing has to be done to convert Mar-a-Lago to a single-family home. He also recalls that the “very large and beautiful” ballroom at Mar-a-Lago was built by him, notwithstanding the deed. “This property is more valuable with that building on it!” he testifies.

“I personally would never change it,” but if his children want to change it, for example, it would be their right, Trump says.

Trump concedes that they pay less taxes because of Mar-a-Lago’s designation as a private club.

Deed says Mar-a-Lago must remain a private club: AG's office

Wallace, the state attorney, just handed Trump the “deed of development rights” that bound Trump to leave Mar-a-Lago as a private club. Trump said he intended to “forever extinguish” his rights to develop or use the property for anything other than club use, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t change his mind.

I would bet good money that the counterparty to this deed of conservation and preservation easement, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has a very different position about the legally binding nature of this document.

As Wallace is recounting now, the deed prohibits the construction of new buildings as well as the renovation of the interior of the mansion in a way that would make it inhabitable as a single-family home.

Trump's response to one question draws laughs

State attorney Kevin Wallace asks Trump about his involvement in the 2021 statement of financial condition. Trump says his focus at that time was on China and Russia and "keeping our country safe," drawing some laughs from the courtroom.

Wallace reminds him he wasn't president in 2021. (Trump left office on Jan. 20, 2021.)

Trump can't help himself, boasts about deal in question

We are back from the break, and Trump is now being asked about the value of his partnership with Vornado Realty over two buildings, in which Trump held 30% of both assets.

Trump just testified, “I was a limited partner; I did not put up any money; I had no liability for what I owned.” He can’t help himself and is boasting about the structure of the deal in ways that are belied by the statement itself.

The Vornado valuation in 2014 was $816 million. Asked whether that was based on accurate information, Trump testifies, “I think so; I hope so.” He pauses and then says, “I think it’s low.”

Judge's 'draw every negative inference' comment is bad for Trump

Before the short recess, during the slow-moving disaster that is Donald Trump’s testimony, one concerning note for the former president is when Judge Engoron said he’d “draw every negative inference” against Trump if the witness can’t control himself.

That would be like if Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment and then the judge assumed what he would have had to say would have been bad for the witness, which is a permissible inference in the civil context. So Trump’s testimony thus far is verging on a confession by virtue of his inability to control himself, according to the judge.

Quick recess after chaotic first hour

The trial is on its first break of the day. Engoron ordered a 15-minute recess after the attorney general's office asked to take a break.

N.Y. AG's office zeroes in on Trump’s actions

In the face of Trump apparently trying to deflect responsibility or claiming not to know the answers to questions, James' office is trying to get Trump to answer directly about his specific involvement in the financial statements at issue.

Though the Trumps are apparently trying to deflect responsibility to accountants, for example, accountants need to get their information from somewhere, so the state is seemingly trying to build as strong a record as possible of the degree to which that information came from the Trumps, including Donald Trump himself.

It's been less than an hour and things are already heated

Engoron is becoming more and more frustrated with Trump's time on the stand so far. Moments ago, he asked Trump attorney Christopher Kise, "Can you control your client? This is not a political rally."

MSNBC legal contributor Chuck Rosenberg just reminded viewers: "While it may be a theater for Trump ... for the judge and the representatives for the attorney general’s office, it remains a courtroom."

Remember: Judge Engoron already found Trump 'not credible'

This isn’t exactly the first time that Trump is testifying in front of Judge Arthur Engoron.  That’s because the former president previously tried to talk his way out of the second gag order violation, claiming that he wasn’t talking about Engoron’s law clerk. 

But the judge didn’t buy Trump’s explanation, instead finding Trump "not credible." So on top of everything about this case that’s unusual in a bad way for Trump, he’s already been found untrustworthy by the judge who’s evaluating his lengthier testimony today.

Trump’s testimony is already absurd

Not that it’s any surprise, but it can’t be overstated how absurd it is that Trump is complaining about the judge presiding over his case while he’s testifying. (Remember, there’s no jury here in this type of case.) That led Judge Engoron to correct the record already when Trump said the judge always rules against him.

So far, at least, Trump hasn’t attacked Engoron’s law clerk (which would violate the gag order again), but it’s early in the testimony yet.

Trump called to testify and sworn in

Former President Donald Trump waits to take the witness stand at New York Supreme Court.
Donald Trump waits to take the witness stand in New York today.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP file

Trump, the former president and leading GOP presidential candidate, was officially called to testify and has been sworn in.

MSNBC legal contributor Chuck Rosenberg expects Trump to do more than invoke the Fifth Amendment today: "My guess, and we'll soon see if I'm right, is that he will answer questions on the stand under oath."

Will Trump earn his next gag order violation today?

Heading into his testimony, Trump has already been fined a total of $15,000 for two separate gag order violations, stemming from statements about Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerk. As my colleague Clarissa-Jan Lim explained, Engoron has expanded that order to cover Trump’s lawyers, who apparently have chosen to not behave themselves, either.

What promises to be a testy day of testimony raises the question of whether we’ll see the next violation today. That, in turn, raises the more important question of whether Engoron will impose the more serious sort of sanction he has threatened previously, including imprisonment.

N.Y. AG Letitia James arrives: 'Numbers, my friends, don't lie'

New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives at New York Supreme Court.
New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives at New York Supreme Court this morning.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP

Both Trump and James have arrived to the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, with today's proceedings expected to kick off shortly.

As James headed inside, she provided brief — but pointed — remarks to the press: “Trump has repeatedly and consistently misrepresented the value of his assets. I’m certain that he will engage in name-calling and taunts and race-baiting and call this a witch hunt. But at the end of the day the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers — and numbers, my friends, don’t lie.”

Trump’s testimony won’t be televised (but it should be)

The leading GOP presidential candidate’s cross-country legal docket has given us a crash course in varying levels of courtroom transparency. For example, we’ve been able to tune into the Georgia proceedings of Trump’s co-defendants and will be able to likewise watch if he goes to trial there. So, too, for the Colorado trial that kicked off last week on Trump’s ballot eligibility under the 14th Amendment.

Unfortunately, there aren’t cameras in Trump’s federal or New York courtrooms, so the public’s understanding of these proceedings will necessarily be derivative. Fortunately, we have excellent colleagues there bringing us the latest. But that’s no excuse for courts to deprive the broader public of direct access to otherwise public proceedings.

Trump already partially lost case he claims has 'ZERO MERIT'

Getting himself and his fans psyched up for his testimony today, Trump put out a Truth Social post claiming, among other things, that the case against him, “ACCORDING TO ALMOST ALL LEGAL SCHOLARS, HAS ZERO MERIT.” If so, then the former president should be relaxed rather than panic-stricken.

But the unsourced claim reminds us that an important legal player — even if not a scholar, per se — not only thinks the case has some merit but enough to have found Trump and his civil co-defendants partially liable before the trial even began. That is, in a pretrial ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron already found they committed fraud, leaving for trial a handful of other claims and how much money the defendants are on the hook for.

Of course, the final word will come on appeal, where Trump will hope to find more sympathetic legal analysis.

What to expect today: Trump family blame game to continue

After Trump's eldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric, pointed fingers during their respective testimonies last week, we can expect their father may be prepared to do the same on the stand today.

As MSNBC Daily writer Hayes Brown wrote this morning:

In Trump’s world, he is as little at fault for anything that goes wrong as he is quick to claim credit for victories that weren’t his. There’s always a scapegoat for his many failures. And his sons’ testimony shows he has passed on this trait to his children.

Trump Jr. shrugged off any suggestions that his signature on falsified documents was at all his responsibility. Yes, he is an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and, along with Eric and former chief financial officer Weisselberg, one of the trustees who ran the company while his father was in office. But he told prosecutors Wednesday that he had “no knowledge” of accounting or the complexities of the forms with his name on them. ...

Eric fared less well than his older brother under the prosecutors’ examination. He insisted both in court and in his previous deposition that he had “never worked” on the company’s statement of financial condition — only for prosecutors to confront him with evidence that he had, in fact, provided information for the annual statements. 

Read more from Hayes below:

How Trump’s civil testimony is different from criminal

We don’t know yet what Trump will — or won’t — say on the stand today. But we do know that this civil proceeding is guided by different rules than the ones at play if any of Trump’s four criminal cases go to trial.

For one thing, it’s the state calling Trump to the stand today, which wouldn’t happen in a criminal case. Indeed, criminal defendants have no obligation to testify or present any evidence at all; the burden is entirely on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, Trump doesn’t enjoy those benefits, though he could still invoke the Fifth Amendment — but unlike in a criminal case, the judge can use that civil silence against him.

Media assembles outside courthouse as trial enters 4th week

Trump still pushes the ‘no jury’ charade before taking the stand

In a possible warmup act for misleading testimony to come today, Trump again yesterday complained (in a Truth Social rant) about not having a jury in his civil fraud trial. Specifically, he whined that Judge Arthur Engoron “wouldn’t allow a JURY.”

But as we’ve previously reported, this sort of case wouldn’t have entitled Trump to a jury even if he had asked for one. If Trump doesn’t believe us, he should ask his own lawyer, Alina Habba, who took pains to point out that she didn’t ask for a jury because he wasn’t entitled to one, a point that Engoron endorsed at Habba’s urging. So according to not only Engoron but Trump’s own counsel, it’s the law, not the judge, that doesn’t allow a jury here.

Read the N.Y. AG's lawsuit against Trump

Read the New York attorney general office's full 222-page complaint against Trump and others, alleging fraudulent business practices.

Ivanka Trump was initially listed as a defendant but has since been dropped from the lawsuit. But she can't escape the trial altogether; a New York appeals court last week denied her attempt to avoid testifying.