Former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks to the media at a Washington hotel on Jan. 9, after attending a hearing before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals at the federal courthouse in Washington. SUSAN WALSH/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Judge rescinds permission for Trump to give own closing argument at civil fraud trial

JENNIFER PELTZ AND JAKE OFFENHARTZ |

Donald Trump won’t make his own closing argument after all in his New York civil business fraud trial after his lawyers objected to the judge’s insistence that the former president stick to “relevant” matters.

Judge Arthur Engoron rescinded permission for the unusual plan on Wednesday, a day ahead of closing arguments in the trial. Trump attorney Alina Habba responded: “Is anyone surprised anymore?”

The trial could cost Trump hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and strip him of his ability to do business in New York. The lawsuit, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, claims that Trump’s net worth was inflated by billions of dollars on financial statements that helped him secure business loans and insurance.

The former president and current Republican 2024 front-runner denies any wrongdoing, and he has lambasted the case as a “hoax” and a political attack on him. James and the judge are Democrats.

It’s extremely uncommon for people who have lawyers to give their own closing arguments. But Trump’s lawyers had signaled privately to the judge last week that the ex-president planned to deliver a summation personally, in addition to arguments from his legal team.

In an email exchange that happened over recent days and was filed in court Wednesday, Engoron initially approved the request, saying he was “inclined 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.

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