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Trump, N.Y. attorney general argue over scope of looming fraud trial


(Reuters) — Donald Trump’s lawyers are trying on Friday to persuade a New York judge to throw out, just 10 days before a scheduled trial, most or all of state Attorney General Letitia James’s lawsuit accusing the former U.S. president of “staggering” fraud.

Lawyers for Ms. James, in contrast, are asking the same Manhattan judge to find Mr. Trump and other defendants, including his adult sons and his Trump Organization family business, liable for fraud even before a jury starts hearing evidence.

Justice Arthur Engoron, who oversees the case, said at Friday's hearing that he expects to rule on the motions on Tuesday, after hearing oral arguments.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 2.

It comes as Mr. Trump enjoys a dominating lead in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, despite facing a slew of litigation including four criminal indictments where he has pleaded not guilty.

Ms. James has accused Mr. Trump of repeatedly lying in financial statements to obtain better terms on loans and insurance.

She has said Mr. Trump overstated the values of more than 20 properties from 2011 to 2021, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and Trump Tower penthouse in Manhattan, and inflating his own fortune by as much as $3.6 billion.

Mr. Trump has called the lawsuit a “witch hunt.”

His lawyers have argued that Ms. James has no authority to sue over private transactions they say were not fraudulent, and that most of her claims fall outside statutes of limitations.

They cited a June decision by a state appeals court dismissing claims against Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, and various other claims predating July 2014 or February 2016.

The court left it to Judge Engoron to determine which parts could proceed.

Last week, Mr. Trump accused Ms. James of ignoring the decision and Judge Engoron of refusing to implement it, and said the trial should be delayed.

That prompted an appeals court judge on Sept. 14 to temporarily stay the trial. A five-judge panel is expected to decide next week whether the trial should proceed.

Judge Engoron has chosen not to appear before the panel, and referred it to his prior orders.

On Thursday, James called Mr. Trump’s request for a delay a “brazen and meritless” attempt to undermine Judge Engoron’s authority.

She said even a brief delay “would likely wreak havoc” on the trial and other trials that Mr. Trump faces.

Ms. James’ lawsuit seeks to bar Mr. Trump and his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric from running businesses in New York. It also seeks at least $250 million of penalties.