Updated Feb 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know ahead of the expected ruling in Trump's N.Y. civil fraud trial

Former President Trump speaking in Las Vegas on Jan. 27.

Former President Trump speaking in Las Vegas on Jan. 27. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

The highly anticipated verdict in former President Trump's civil fraud trial may not come until mid-February, the court said Friday.

Why it matters: The decision could have sweeping implications for the 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner's campaign. Trump and his family's business empire could also face steep financial penalties and major restrictions on their ability to operate in New York.

  • The new timeline also pushes the ruling closer to the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.

The latest: "It's looking like early to mid-February, as a rough estimate, and subject to modifications," a New York court official confirmed to Axios. "But that's the working plan now."

  • "It will be a written decision," the official added.

Zoom out: Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the case, had previously said that he would aim to issue a ruling by the end of January, but that it was not guaranteed.

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James asked the court last month to order Trump and his company to pay $370 million in penalties for committing years of financial fraud.
  • The ruling in the civil fraud case will come after a New York jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million in damages to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her through comments he made while denying her sexual assault claims.

The big picture: The civil fraud case is one of Trump's many pending legal proceedings. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has sought to capitalize on his legal troubles as he campaigns for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

  • Engoron already ruled that Trump committed years of fraud by inflating his wealth and assets, so the scope of the case had been narrowed to other claims brought by James.
  • Because Trump waived his right to a trial by jury, Engoron will be the sole decider of those other claims and possible penalties.
  • Regardless of trial's outcome, Trump and his family have already faced some penalties.
  • Engoron, as punishment for committing fraud, removed business certificates from Trump, two of his sons and the Trump Organization.

Where the case stands

  • Trump attended the closing arguments in January and delivered brief remarks, declaring himself an "innocent man."
  • Trump took the stand in the case in November. He was expected to testify again on Dec. 11 but did not.
  • "I have already testified to everything & have nothing more to say other than that this is a complete & total election interference," he said on Truth Social at the time.

What the suit alleges

Attorney General James filed a civil lawsuit in 2022 accusing Trump and members of his family of financial fraud.

  • She alleged that Trump and people working for him inflated his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion for more than a decade.
  • James also accused Trump and those working for him of making false entries in business records, falsifying financial statements and committing insurance fraud.
  • The AG requested that Trump be fined as much as $370 million. Originally, she had sought $250 million.

Family testimonies

Three of Trump's children have testified in the case, with two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, also named in the lawsuit.

  • Donald Trump Jr. denied having any role in preparing financial statements for the Trump Organization, saying during his testimony that accountants prepared them. The statements are at the center of the lawsuit.
  • Eric Trump, meanwhile, sought to differentiate between general financial records created for the Trump Organization and statements of financial condition. He also claimed that he and his siblings are "collateral damage" of the case against their father.
  • Ivanka Trump, who was dismissed from the lawsuit, testified she was not involved in preparing her father's financial statements. The prosecution rested its case after her testimony.

Court appearances

Trump has made several stops at the courthouse while on the campaign trail.

  • He appeared at the Manhattan courthouse for the start of the trial, saying he wanted to appear in person "to watch this witch hunt" for himself. Trump was under no legal obligation to attend the trial and did so voluntarily.
  • Trump also took to the stand for nearly four hours in November, providing testimony in which he sparred with the judge and acknowledged giving input on the financial statements at the center of the lawsuit.
  • Trump asked to speak during closing arguments, but Engoron denied the request after the former president refused to agree to certain conditions, like refraining from criticizing court staff.
  • Engoron later allowed him to briefly address the courtroom.

Failed mistrial request

The New York state judge denied Trump's request for a mistrial in November, saying it would be "futile" because the request is meritless.

  • Trump's attorneys had requested the mistrial, alleging bias by Engoron's bench.
  • Engoron defended himself and his law clerk, whom Trump has repeatedly attacked.

Gag order debacle

A New York appeals court in late November reinstated a limited gag order on Trump after the former president made a post on his Truth Social account about the judge's law clerk.

  • The order bars Trump and his attorneys from disparaging court staff.
  • Engoron has fined Trump twice for violating the order.

Go deeper: What Trump stands to lose in his New York civil fraud trial

Axios' April Rubin contributed reporting.

Editor's note: This story was updated with new developments.

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