With trial underway, Trump appeals New York judge’s fraud ruling

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump on Wednesday appealed a judge’s refusal to dismiss New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against him and his family business, two days after the case went to trial.

The appeal to the Appellate Division, a mid-level appeals court, was filed as the former U.S. president sat in a Manhattan courtroom watching an accountant who used to work for him testify as the state’s first witness.

James has accused Trump, his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, the Trump Organization and others of inflating property values over a decade and Trump’s net worth by up to $2.2 billion.

The attorney general said the “staggering fraud” was meant to help Trump obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

Justice Arthur Engoron on Sept. 26 said Trump committed fraud, finding “conclusive evidence” that he inflated his fortune by overvaluing his Mar-a-Lago estate, his Trump Tower penthouse apartment, office buildings and golf courses.

Engoron also ordered the cancellation of certificates that let some of Trump’s businesses, including the Trump Organization, operate in New York.

The appeal addresses all of Engoron’s main findings.

Trump has called the judge “deranged,” and suggested on Monday that he be disbarred.

He has also said James based her case on “fraudulent” numbers as part of a Democratic witch hunt against him.

“This is a railroading,” Trump said on Wednesday.

Trump, a Republican, leads his party’s race for the 2024 presidential nomination.

The appeals process could extend beyond the trial, which could last into December.

Engoron is hearing the case without a jury.

The attorney general is pursuing six additional claims at the trial, including falsifying business records, insurance fraud and conspiracy.

James is seeking $250 million in damages. She also wants Trump and his adult sons permanently banned from running businesses in New York.

Trump separately faces four criminal indictments over his efforts to stay in power following the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents and hush money paid to a porn star. He has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The government cases have strengthened Trump politically, and his campaign is using them to raise money by portraying him as a martyr.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Daniel Wallis, Grant McCool and Mark Porter)