Former President Donald J. Trump went on trial this month in a New York courtroom, facing a threat to the business empire that informed his public persona and undergirded his run for the White House. Friday was the trial’s fifth day.
Much of the action happened outside the courtroom on Friday. Mr. Trump’s legal team tried and failed to pause the trial itself, but succeeded in delaying the implementation of a sweeping order by the trial judge that had been expected to have a serious impact on Mr. Trump’s real estate business.
The trial stems from a lawsuit brought last year by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, accusing Mr. Trump and other defendants, including two of his adult sons and his companies, of fraudulently inflating the value of their assets to obtain favorable loans and insurance deals.
Before the trial began, the judge, Arthur F. Engoron, ruled that Mr. Trump and the other defendants were liable for fraud, and that the annual financial statements on which they listed their assets were filled with examples of such misconduct.
As a consequence, he canceled the business licenses that allow the former president to operate his companies in New York, striking a blow to Mr. Trump’s empire.
On Friday, an appeals court judge, Peter Moulton, paused that part of Justice Engoron’s order, even as he declined to stop the trial itself. While the former president’s control of his companies is still at risk, he will not immediately need to dissolve the legal entities he uses to manage his properties. The issue will next be argued in front of a full panel of appeals court judges.
In a statement, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, said he was “very pleased” the appeals court had “upheld New York law.” A statement from the Trump Organization added that the order would have affected companies that employ nearly 1,000 New Yorkers.
The trial will determine whether Mr. Trump will pay a significant penalty, as well as any other punishments. Ms. James has asked that he pay $250 million and that he and his sons be permanently barred from running a business in New York.
Mr. Trump has denied all wrongdoing, and has accused Ms. James, a Democrat, of being politically motivated. Mr. Trump is a Republican.
Here is what has happened so far in the trial:
Lawyers for both sides laid out their cases this week. During opening statements, a lawyer from the attorney general’s office, Kevin Wallace, argued that employees of Mr. Trump had arbitrarily assigned values to individual assets — properties like Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street — to arrive at the former president’s desired net worth. Mr. Kise responded that the assets had no objective value and that differing valuations were standard in real estate.
A parade of accountants
Three witnesses have taken the stand so far. The testimony of Mr. Trump’s former accountant Donald Bender concluded on Thursday, his fourth day on the stand. Mr. Bender testified that it was the responsibility of the Trump Organization to ensure that statements were in line with generally accepted accounting principles — which they sometimes would not follow.
The court also heard from Camron Harris, an accountant who worked with the Trump Organization, and Jeffrey McConney, the company’s former controller. For years, Mr. McConney prepared the valuations of Trump Organization assets before they were handed to Mr. Bender to compile.
On Friday, Andrew Amer, a lawyer with the attorney general’s office, tried to pin down Mr. McConney on how he arrived at his valuations. Mr. McConney testified that some were the result of a mistake or oversight on his part. But he testified that others were intentional, such as a failure to account for 12 rent-stabilized apartments in the valuation of Trump Park Avenue.
Mr. McConney also implicated other defendants on Friday. He testified that he arrived at some of those inflated values or continued to use them year after year after conversations with Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, or Eric Trump, one of Mr. Trump’s sons.
In the courtroom
Thursday was the first day of the trial without Donald J. Trump present in the courtroom. Eric Trump, who also attended the first three days of the trial, was absent on Thursday and Friday as well.
But Ms. James was still present, sitting in the same front-row seat each day this week. She divided her attention between the witnesses and the exhibits presented to the audience, occasionally chatting with the lawyers from her office who are litigating the case.
A limited ‘gag order’
On Tuesday, Justice Engoron ordered Mr. Trump not to attack, or even comment on, members of the judge’s staff on social media. This admonition came in response to a post by Mr. Trump showing a picture of the judge’s clerk Allison Greenfield with Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, and mocking her as “Schumer’s girlfriend.”
“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances,” Justice Engoron said
He added that serious sanctions would follow if he were disobeyed, but he did not elaborate further.
Mr. Trump took down the offending social media post on Tuesday. A copy remained visible on his 2024 campaign website.
What to expect next week
The court will be closed Monday for the federal holiday. The trial will resume Tuesday morning.
The attorney general plans to call Mr. Weisselberg, a defendant in the case, to testify. Mr. Weisselberg is no stranger to the witness stand, having testified in the company’s criminal tax fraud trial last year.
Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer turned antagonist, may also testify next week.