A New York judge on Tuesday rejected former US president Donald Trump’s bid to delay the scheduled trial date in a civil fraud lawsuit being brought against him by the state attorney general, Letitia James.
Justice Arthur Engoron in the supreme court in Manhattan agreed to requests by Mr Trump and other defendants to push back some deadlines for gathering evidence, but said the October 2nd trial date was “written in stone”.
“You can move anything else in between,” the judge told lawyers at a two-hour hearing, which was delayed by a bomb scare. “I don’t want to move that trial date.”
The schedule means the former president could face trial in Ms James’s case just two blocks from the Manhattan criminal court building where he is expecting to be indicted for covering up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Both cases come during Mr Trump’s third White House run, in which he is a leading Republican candidate.
Ms James sued Mr Trump, three of his adult children, the Trump Organization and others last September over an alleged decade-long scheme to manipulate more than 200 asset valuations and Mr Trump’s net worth, to win better terms from banks and insurers.
The attorney general has long accused Mr Trump of stalling to delay her case. On Monday, she accused the Trump Organization’s accounting firm of failing to produce documents she subpoenaed and improperly asserting privilege.
Mr Trump has called Ms James’s case a partisan witch hunt. He had originally sought a delay that would have likely pushed any trial to the spring of 2024, when the race to become the Republican presidential nominee might be sewn up.
Ms James countered that her office had already turned over “enormous” quantities of evidence to the defendants, enough to prevent any trial from “becoming a game of surprise”.
The judge also said many disputes were easy to resolve, including whether Mr Trump had overstated the value of his Trump Tower penthouse apartment by inflating its size.
“A triplex apartment is worth less money if is 11,000 square feet than if it is 30,000 square feet,” he said. “You do not need to be an expert ... to know these things. You don’t even need a high-school diploma.”
Among the other defendants are Mr Trump’s adult children Donald jnr, Eric and Ivanka, and the jailed former Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Mr Trump, said the defendants’ confidence was growing as they learned more about Ms James’s case.
“Once everybody knows exactly what happened, then they’re going to see that President Trump has done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.
Asked later by a reporter about the trial date being set in stone, Mr Kise said: “For now, it is.” – Reuters