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Michael Cohen to testify in Trump fraud trial in New York

Former President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen arrives for former attorney Michael Avenatti’s criminal trial at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Jan. 24, 2022.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for Donald Trump, is set to begin testifying Tuesday in the $250 million fraud trial of the former president and his company.

Trump is expected to be in the courtroom, CNN has reported, setting the stage for a dramatic face-to-face showdown between the ex-president and his once-close aide. CNBC has reached out to Trump’s lawyers and spokespeople for comment.

Trump’s presence “will not affect me either way,” Cohen told CNBC in an email Monday afternoon.

Cohen’s appearance in Manhattan Supreme Court offers more than just the chance of a clash between the two men, whose bitter falling-out took place largely in public view during Trump’s presidency. Cohen’s testimony to Congress in 2019 about his former boss’s business practices is what spurred New York Attorney General Letitia James to open an investigation in the first place.

The lawsuit that emerged from that probe accuses Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and top executives of fraudulently inflating the values of real estate properties and other assets over a decade in order to get tax benefits and better loan terms.

James seeks around $250 million in damages, and she wants to bar Trump and his co-defendants from running a business in New York.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who will deliver verdicts in the no-jury trial, has already found Trump liable for fraud and ordered the cancellation of the defendants’ New York business certificates. The trial, which is expected to stretch into late December, will resolve James’ six remaining claims.

Trump was in court for two days last week, when Cohen was first expected to be called to testify. But Cohen’s appearance was delayed due to what Cohen said was a “pre-existing medical condition that impedes my ability to testify.”

Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the case. At the courthouse and on social media, he has repeatedly criticized James, the judge and the proceedings in general, claiming he is the victim of a politically biased proceeding.

Engoron imposed a narrow gag order on Trump earlier this month, after Trump attacked the judge’s law clerk. The judge last week accused Trump of violating that gag order, imposing a $5,000 fine on Trump and warning him that repeated violations could lead to his imprisonment.

The gag order prohibits Trump from making public statements about the judge’s staff. But he is currently not barred from attacking others involved in the case — including Cohen.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

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