In his New York civil business fraud trial, Donald Trump will not present his closing argument because his attorneys objected to the judge’s insistence that he limit himself to “relevant” topics.
Permission was revoked by Judge Arthur Engoron on Wednesday, one day prior to the conclusion of closing arguments in the trial.
Penalties totaling hundreds of millions of dollars and the inability to conduct business in New York could result from the trial. His attorneys had indicated last week that he intended to personally present a summation alongside arguments presented by his legal team, which was an unprecedented move.
The lawsuit, initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, names Trump as the defendant. According to her assertion, financial statements that facilitated his acquisition of business loans and insurance contributed to a billion-dollar inflation of his net worth.
The Republican front-runner for 2024 and former president refutes any culpability, dismissing the case as a “hoax” and a political ploy against him. The magistrate and James are both Democrats.
It’s extremely unusual for people who have lawyers to give their own closing arguments. In an email exchange that happened over recent days and was filed in court Wednesday, Engoron initially approved the unusual request, saying he was “including to let everyone have his or her say.”
But he said Trump would have to limit his remarks to the boundaries that cover attorneys’ closing arguments: “commentary on the relevant, material facts that are in evidence, and application of the relevant law to those facts.”
He would not be allowed to introduce new evidence, “comment on irrelevant matters” or “deliver a campaign speech” — or impugn the judge, his staff, the attorney general, her lawyers or the court system, the judge wrote.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise responded that those limitations were “fraught with ambiguities, creating the substantial likelihood for misinterpretation or an unintended violation. Engoron said that they were ”reasonable, normal limits,” but Kise termed them “very unfair.”
“You are not allowing President Trump, who has been wrongfully demeaned and belittled by an out of control, politically motivated attorney general, to speak about the things that must be spoken about,” the attorney wrote.
Wednesday at noon, Engoron wrote that he had no response from Trump’s attorneys and therefore assumed the president had not agreed to the ground rules and would not be speaking.
Any defendant who assumes a role typically conducted by an attorney does so at their own peril. However, Trump’s intention to deliver a statement in court was arguably even more tenuous, given that his previous remarks regarding the case had already alienated the judge.
Engoron issued a limited restraining order on the trial participants, prohibiting them from making any remarks regarding court personnel, subsequent to Trump’s derogatory social media post regarding the judge’s law clerk on the second day of the October trial. Regarding the clerk’s private life, the post contained an unfounded allegation.
Later, the judge assessed Trump a $15,000 fine, citing his repetitive disobedience to the order. The defense team for Trump is contesting the decision.
In a recent email exchange concerning the prospective summation of Trump, Engoron cautioned Trump’s attorneys that in the event of a breach of the gag order by the former president, he would be removed from the courtroom and subject to a minimum $50,000 fine.
In November, Trump provided testimony in the case, engaging in verbal exchanges with the judge and state attorneys while defending his real estate empire. He deliberated but abstained from participating in the subsequent phase of testimony, which occurred during the trial when his own attorneys were cross-examining witnesses. He retracted his earlier statement that he would be returning and stated that he had “nothing more to say.”