On Monday, presiding Judge Arthur Engoron blocked ambitions from the Trump defense team of summoning Barbara Jones for testimony as they present their defense in the fraud case brought by New York state Attorney General Letitia James. That top law enforcement official accuses the Trumps in a civil case of sweeping financial misrepresentations that set them up for unearned financial benefits like more favorable loan terms.
Jones, a former federal judge, has been serving as an independent monitor of Trump Organization business practices as James’ underlying investigation has moved forward.
The Trump team tried in court to characterize her findings as generally helpful for the ex-president and his family’s cause, though she actually said just in recent months that the Trump businesses had been providing incomplete details to lenders. A defense attorney later spotlighted what they were trying to say was absent from the ex-judge’s reports as “disseminating false and misleading information” on the Trump Organization’s part, though trying to distinguish between outright falsity and leaving out relevant details seems like perhaps a stretch here.
“Engoron said that he determined that Jones and her staff are effectively “arms of the court” and thus cannot be called to testify,” ABC reported, though later, the judge evidently opened up the possibility of hearing further arguments from the Trumps’ defense team on the matter. The judge had also identified a concern of potentially arising conflicts of interest should Jones be called for testimony.
Meanwhile, the ex-president himself is slated to appear on the stand again at trial, this time for the defense as they work on closing out their presentation next month. The trial is being decided by Engoron rather than a jury. Trump has been claiming outside of court that valuations for his assets were actually higher than reported on disputed financial statements, though foundationally, that could still be a legal problem. In addition, his claims — like that Mar-a-Lago’s value sends it likely into the billions of dollars — just aren’t factually supported.