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Trump returns to New York courtroom as civil fraud trial continues

Former President Donald Trump is attending his civil fraud trial in New York on Tuesday, returning to a Manhattan courtroom for the fourth time since the trial began two weeks ago.

Trump, two of his sons and their company were already found liable for fraud in September in the civil suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The trial is proceeding on several other charges, including falsification of business records and conspiracy.

The former president last attended the trial on Oct. 4, and he and his co-defendants have denied any wrongdoing in the case. His absence from the proceedings was noted Monday by New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who quipped about the two sides “arguing in front of an empty chair.”

Trump’s appearance Tuesday was originally expected to be a face-off with his former “fixer” and attorney, and now nemesis, Michael Cohen — a key witness in both this case and an unrelated Manhattan criminal case. Cohen’s testimony was delayed due to a health issue. He said in a statement to CBS News that he intends to testify as soon as possible.

“I am thankful the medical condition, while incredibly painful, does not require an immediate procedure. I anticipate appearing as soon as the pain subsides,” Cohen said. “When I do testify, I am certain Donald will be in attendance, sitting with his lawyers at the defendant’s table.”

Trump attended the trial on Oct. 3 instead of appearing for a deposition in connection with a $500 million lawsuit he filed against Cohen the day before his current trial began. A judge agreed to delay the deposition — in which attorneys for Cohen would have spent hours questioning Trump — so Trump could attend the trial. Later that week, Trump chose to drop the suit.

Trump is scheduled to be deposed Tuesday afternoon in a different case — a lawsuit filed by former FBI agent Peter Strzok against the Justice Department. It is unclear if Trump intends to attend that deposition.

On Tuesday, Trump was placed under a limited gag order in a separate federal case in which he faces four felony charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election and has pleaded not guilty.

It was the second limited gag order he’s received this month. On Oct. 3, Engoron forbade Trump from making online posts or other public statements about court staff. Earlier that day, Trump had made a derogatory post about Engoron’s clerk.

Trump said Tuesday before entering court, that “I respect the judge, I like the judge.”

“I like him, but it’s not fair, because I don’t know how he could make a fair decision on this,” Trump said. “He’s got all the Democrats pushing him left and right, pushing him around like a pinball.”

Trump has denied all allegations against him in both cases. He and his sons have criticized James for bringing the civil fraud case, accusing her of investigating them for political gain.

Tuesday morning’s trial proceeding began with testimony from Trump Organization accountant Donna Kidder, who was called to the stand late Monday. Kidder, the trial’s eighth witness, testified about the company’s internal bookkeeping practices.

The preparation of so-called statements of financial condition are the focus of allegations that Trump and his company portrayed him as far wealthier than he was and overstated the value of many of his properties to get more favorable terms on loans and insurance. The state claims he made hundreds of millions in “ill-gotten gains” through falsely inflating his wealth.

Earlier testimony has included several current and former Trump Organization executives, who were asked about documents that appeared to show an extensive effort to ensure Trump’s “estimated” wealth would “go up” year after year.

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