Appeals court rejects Ivanka Trump’s ‘undue hardship’ argument, clearing way for her testimony

A New York appeals court rules that Ivanka Trump must testify in the $250 million financial fraud trial of her father, her older brothers and their family business. Eric Trump testifies that he believed financial statements he certified were accurate, but that view was based on what lawyers and accountants told him. A California judge rules that pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman is culpable for the actions he took to overturn the 2020 election.

New York financial fraud

Ivanka Trump must testify, appeals court rules

Key players: Former Trump Organization executive vice president Ivanka Trump, Judge Arthur Engoron, Trump lawyer Bennet Moskowitz

  • Late Thursday, a New York appeals court rejected Ivanka Trump’s attempt to delay her testimony in the financial fraud trial that will decide possible penalties for her father, her older brothers and their family business, CNN reported.

  • “Ms. Trump, who resides in Florida with her three minor children, will suffer undue hardship if a stay is denied and she is required to testify at trial in New York in the middle of a school week, in a case she has already been dismissed from, before her appeal is heard,” her lawyer Bennet Moskowitz had argued.

  • Engoron postponed Ivanka Trump’s testimony until Nov. 8 to give her lawyers a chance to appeal his ruling that she, like her brothers Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, must take the witness stand in the case.

  • An appeals court dismissed Ivanka Trump as a party in the case earlier this year, stating that the claims against her were outside of the statute of limitations.

Why it matters: With former President Donald Trump taking the witness stand on Monday and Ivanka Trump slated to testify Wednesday, James is attempting to build her case that the Trump family was at the heart of the effort to deceive banks and insurers.

Eric Trump testifies about signing statements on father’s finances

Key players: Trump Organization executive vice president Eric Trump, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Concluding his testimony Friday, Eric Trump said he signed three financial certifications to banks and that he believed that information to be accurate, the Associated Press reported.

  • “I certified something I believed was accurate. My lawyers told me was accurate, and our financial people told me was accurate,” Eric Trump said under questioning.

  • James contends that Trump, his eldest sons and executives at the family business deliberately inflated the value of assets on financial certifications so as to obtain favorable loan and insurance rates, thereby further enriching themselves.

  • Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are liable for years of financial fraud, and the trial will attempt to assign specific blame and set penalties.

Why it matters: In their testimony, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. sought to put distance between themselves and the information contained in their company’s financial statements, suggesting no first-hand knowledge of faulty figures. Engoron will ultimately decide whether they are credible.

Georgia election interference

Judge finds Eastman culpable for actions to overturn the 2020 election

Key players: Pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman, California State Bar Court Judge Yvette Roland, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis

  • Roland issued a “preliminary finding” on Thursday that Eastman, a California resident, is culpable for legal and moral violations stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, the Daily Beast reported.

  • Eastman faces 11 disciplinary charges in State Bar Court and Roland’s ruling is a step toward his possible suspension or disbarment.

  • A co-defendant in Georgia, where he is charged with nine felonies in Wilis’s sprawling RICO case, Eastman was the author of a memo that laid out a plan for Pence to reject the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, to keep Trump in power.

Why it matters: Pro-Trump lawyers like Giuliani and Ellis have faced legal sanctions for the work they did to subvert the 2020 election. Eastman and Giuliani both face the prospect of imprisonment in the Georgia case and possible disbarment elsewhere. Ellis has pleaded guilty in Georgia and has agreed to testify for Willis.

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Thursday, Nov. 2

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Eric Trump. (Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Getty Images (3))

After testifying that he was not involved in preparing financial documents regarding his father’s financial condition, prosecutors show him evidence that starkly contradicts that claim. Lawyers on special counsel Jack Smith’s team press federal Judge Aileen Cannon to allow Trump’s classified documents trial to proceed on schedule.

New York financial fraud

Eric Trump confronted with 2013 email that appears to contradict his testimony

Key players: Trump Organization executive vice presidents Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., Assistant Attorney General Andrew Amer, Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Eric Trump was tripped up by questioning from Amer on Thursday as to his knowledge of the use of his father’s financial statements in real estate deals, the Guardian reported.

  • “I understand we had financials as a company,” Eric Trump testified during a testy exchange with Amer. “I was not personally aware of the statement of financial condition. I did not work on the statement of financial condition. I’ve been very, very clear on that.”

  • Amer then produced a 2013 email from a company employee to Eric Trump asking him for help with his father’s financial statement.

  • “So you did know about your father’s annual financial statement, as of August 20, 2013, didn’t you?” Amer asked.

  • “It appears that way, yes,” Eric Trump responded.

  • On Wednesday, Donald Trump Jr. testified that while he certified the company’s financial statements, he never verified that the figures in it were true, Bloomberg reported.

Why it matters: At the heart of the trial to decide the extent of penalties Trump, his adult sons and their family business must pay after Engoron found them all liable is James’s contention that all of the defendants were part of an effort to deceive banks and insurers.

Classified documents

Smith’s team says Trump seeks to delay trials ‘at any cost’

Key players: Special counsel Jack Smith, judges Aileen Cannon and Tanya Chutkan

  • Prosecutors on Smith’s team wrote in a Wednesday filing that Cannon should not delay the May 20 start date of the classified documents trial because of its proximity to the Jan. 6 election interference case in Washington, which is set to begin on March 4, the Daily Beast reported.

  • In the filing, prosecutors said requests to push back the start of both trials until after the 2024 election showed Trump was intent on “delaying both trials at any cost.”

  • “The trial date in the District of Columbia case should not be a determinative factor in the Court’s decision whether to modify the dates in this matter,” the filing stated.

  • During a Wednesday hearing to decide whether to delay the start of the trial, Cannon seemed sympathetic to the arguments put forth by Trump’s lawyers, saying “I’m having a hard time seeing how this work can be accomplished in this compressed period of time.”

  • Trump’s lawyers argued that they had not been given enough time to review the classified documents the government will submit as evidence in the case and that the former president’s schedule is too crowded for the Florida case to go forward in May.

  • Trump’s team has also requested that Chutkan postpone the start of the election interference trial, though it appears unlikely she will do so.

Why it matters: After being hit with four criminal indictments, Trump’s lawyers have sought to delay court proceedings until after the next presidential election. A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that a guilty verdict on felony charges could have a negative impact on Trump’s chances of winning a second term.

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Wednesday, Nov. 1

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Photo illustration

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images, Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr. testifies in the $250 million civil trial to determine the penalties that he, his father, brother Eric and their family business must pay after being found liable for years of financial fraud in New York. In Florida, federal Judge Aileen Cannon holds a hearing to decide whether to delay the classified documents trial until after the 2024 election, and a lawyer for Jenna Ellis details her decision to accept a plea deal in Georgia.

New York financial fraud

Donald Trump Jr. takes the witness stand

Key players: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Trump Jr., an executive vice president with the Trump Organization, took the stand in a Manhattan courtroom Wednesday at the $250 million civil trial that will decide what penalties he, his father, his brother Eric and their family business must pay after being found liable by Engoron of years of financial fraud carried out in New York, the Associated Press reported.

  • In her indictment, James contended that Trump’s adult sons were “aware of, and knowingly participated in” the scheme to inflate the value of assets to obtain favorable bank and insurance rates.

  • Photographers were allowed in the courtroom Wednesday, and as he took the stand, Trump Jr. remarked,”I should have worn makeup.”

  • On the stand, Trump Jr. said he had not been in charge of accounting details at the company. “I rely on professionals and CPAs,” he testified.

  • Trump Jr. said accountant Donald Bender “handled practically everything. He was an outside accountant that we relied heavily on for our accounting needs.”

  • Earlier in the trial, Bender testified that the Trump family had provided him with faulty numbers to use on financial statements.

  • “Leave my children alone, Engoron. You are a disgrace to the legal profession!” Trump wrote Wednesday on his social media website, TruthSocial.

  • Eric Trump could testify as early as Thursday, and the former president is slated to take the stand on Nov. 6. Ivanka Trump, who is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 8, is appealing Engoron’s ruling that she must testify in the case.

Why it matters: The trial will, in part, decide the fate of the Trump family’s New York real estate empire.

Classified documents

Judge holds hearing to decide whether to delay start of documents trial

Key players: Special counsel Jack Smith, Judge Aileen Cannon, Trump employees and co-defendants Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira

  • Cannon held a hearing in Florida on Wednesday to hear arguments on whether to delay the start of Trump’s trial on the alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House, CNN reported.

  • Smith’s office is seeking to keep deadlines in place for the review of classified evidence in the case so as not to affect the scheduled start of the trial on May 20. Trump’s lawyers have argued the trial should be pushed back until after the 2024 election given their claim that they have not been given enough time to review the documents.

  • Nauta and de Oliveira are also charged with helping Trump mislead federal officials in their efforts to recover the documents.

  • Trump faces 40 criminal counts in the case, including willfully retaining national defense information, obstructing justice, making false statements and attempting to alter, destroy, mutilate or conceal evidence.

  • Cannon, a Trump appointee, has repeatedly issued rulings deemed favorable to the former president.

Why it matters: If Cannon sides with Trump’s lawyers and pushes the trial back until after the 2024 election, the former president, if he wins reelection, could seek to pardon himself if found guilty.

Georgia election interference

Ellis’s lawyer explains her guilty plea and offers warning for Giuliani

Key players: Former Trump-aligned lawyers Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, Ellis’s attorney Frank Hogue, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

  • In an interview published Wednesday with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Hogue detailed Ellis’s impetus to accept a plea deal from Willis, noting that guilty pleas from Chesebro and Powell influenced her decision.

  • “I think what really accelerated it was Powell and Chesebro falling as they did, one right after the other,” Hogue said. “It looked like timing was of the essence for us.”

  • Two days after Powell and Chesebro accepted their own deals, Ellis pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She was given a sentence of five years on probation, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, the promise to write a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia, and an agreement to testify against others charged in the case.

  • Giuliani, who is charged with 13 felonies and who appeared alongside Ellis as the two fought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, has reason to be worried, Hogue said.

  • “I think there’s enough for Mayor Giuliani to worry about that wouldn’t have anything to do with Jenna Ellis. I mean, she wouldn’t be a help to him, I don’t think, if she was to be called as a witness. But I think his troubles extend far beyond her,” Hogue told the paper, the Daily Beast reported.

  • Hogue called the plea agreement a “good deal” for his client.

  • “She’s already back in Florida and resuming her life and doesn’t have to face any of this anymore. So for her, my feeling is it’s a good result,” he said.

Why it matters: RICO cases are often designed to elicit plea deals so that some of those charged testify against co-defendants. So far, four people charged in the case have agreed to testify for the prosecution.

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Tuesday, Oct. 31

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Maansi Srivastava/Getty Images, Getty Images

Judge Arthur Engoron chides Trump’s lawyers over their claim that he shouldn’t be fined as punishment for financial fraud committed in New York. A federal grand jury in Georgia indicts an Alabama man for making threats directed at Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

New York financial fraud

Fining Trump for illegal profits is ‘an available remedy,’ judge says

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, Trump lawyer Christopher Kise, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Engoron dismissed the suggestion made by Kise on Tuesday that Trump should not be fined for any of the actions alleged in the $250 million civil lawsuit brought by James, Salon reported.

  • Engoron has already found Trump, his adult sons and their family business liable for years of financial fraud relating to the overvaluation of their assets. The ongoing trial will decide what penalty the defendants must pay.

  • “Several witnesses have testified that they would have acted differently had they known the statements of financial condition were fraudulent,” Engoron responded.

  • “I think, to a certain extent, the defendants are whistling past the graveyard here,” the judge added.

  • Kise argued that even if banks and insurers had known that statements provided by the Trump Organization were fraudulent, they would not have acted differently regarding the loans and rates they offered.

Why it matters: Coming on Halloween, Engoron’s “whistling past the graveyard” characterization of how Trump’s lawyers view the threat of large fines and other sanctions should spook the former president.

Georgia election interference

Alabama man indicted for threats made against Willis

Key players: Huntsville, Ala., resident Arthur Ray Hanson, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

  • Court documents unsealed Monday revealed that an Alabama man was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Atlanta on charges that he transmitted interstate threats to Willis, the prosecutor who brought election interference charges against Trump and 18 others, NBC News reported.

  • In a voicemail message left for Willis on the Fulton County customer service line prior to Trump’s indictment, Hanson, 59, allegedly threatened the district attorney.

  • “If you think you gonna take a mug shot of my President Donald Trump and it’s gonna be OK, you gonna find out that after you take that mug shot, some bad s***’s probably gonna happen to you,” Hanson told Willis in a portion of the message.

  • In August, Abigail Jo Shry of Alvin, Texas, was charged with making threats against Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal election interference case against Trump.

  • “If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, b****,” Shry told Chutkan in a voicemail, according to prosecutors.

Why it matters: Gag orders against Trump have been issued in two cases in which prosecutors have argued that his criticisms of the legal cases represent a risk to judges, prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses.

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Monday, Oct. 30

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, Mike Segar-Pool/Getty Images, Getty Images.

Former President Donald Trump lashes out at Judge Tanya Chutkan after she reimposes a gag order designed to prevent him from attacking prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses in the federal election interference case against him. Meanwhile in Colorado, opening statements are underway in the case to try to keep Trump off the ballot in the state.

Jan. 6 election interference

Chutkan reinstates Trump gag order

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, special counsel Jack Smith, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows

On Sunday, Chutkan sided with arguments made by lawyers on Smith’s team, reinstating a limited gag order on Trump that is meant to prevent him from making disparaging comments about prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses in the case against him, the Associated Press reported.

  • On Oct. 20, the judge had temporarily paused an initial gag order on Trump to allow his lawyers to offer arguments as to why it was unwarranted, but last week prosecutors asked her to reinstate it.

  • Chutkan cited a message Trump posted on social media on Oct. 24 about Meadows’s alleged immunity deal with prosecutors that Smith’s team had flagged as an attempt at witness intimidation.

  • “This statement would almost certainly violate the Order under any reasonable definition of ‘targeting,’” Chutkan wrote in her ruling.

  • Upon learning of the judge’s decision, Trump went on the attack, saying the gag order by a “very Biased, Trump Hating Judge in D.C.” would “put me at a disadvantage against my prosecutorial and political opponents.”

Why it matters: Trump now faces two limited gag orders in two separate legal cases against him. So far, he has shown little inclination to abide by them. In the New York financial fraud case, he has already paid $15,000 in fines as a result of gag order violations.

Opening statements begin in trial to decide whether to ban Trump from Colorado ballot

Key players: Trump lawyer Scott Gessler, plaintiffs’ attorney Eric Olson, Colorado District Court Judge Sarah Wallace

  • Opening statements got underway Monday in the case brought by six Colorado voters and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that seeks to bar Trump’s name from appearing on ballots in the state because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Reuters reported.

  • Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution disqualifies any person who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding office. The plaintiffs say Trump’s efforts to halt the certification of his loss to Joe Biden, which they argue resulted in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, fall squarely into that category.

  • “Trump incited a violent mob to attack our Capitol, to stop the peaceful transition of power,” Olson said at the start of the trial.

  • “People should be able to run for office and shouldn’t be punished for their speech,” Gessler countered in his own opening statement.

  • The trial is expected to last one week and will be decided by Wallace.

Why it matters: Voters in several other states are pursuing legal challenges to Trump’s 2024 presidential bid on similar grounds. Ultimately, these cases are viewed as long shots but could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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