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Hush Money Judge Rules Prosecutors Can Question Trump About Carroll, Fraud Rulings

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The Manhattan judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial issued a key ruling on Monday that is likely forcing his legal team to rethink putting him on the stand in his defense.

Judge Juan Merchan agreed to several requests by prosecutors to cross-examine Trump on cases about his defamation of writer E. Jean Carroll and a court’s finding that he committed fraud in overvaluing his business assets to get more favorable loans, The Hill reported.

“Merchan ruled that prosecutors can cross-examine Trump about six of the 13 prior court determinations they requested to raise in their efforts to impugn the former president’s credibility in front of jurors,” the outlet reported.

“Merchan ruled that prosecutors are permitted to question Trump about two rulings — one by a judge, the other by a jury — finding that Trump defamed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll by denying her claims of sexual assault,” the outlet reported further.

The judge ruled that prosecutors could cross-examine Trump regarding the outcome of his civil fraud trial, where he was found to have fraudulently manipulated property values, and rulings indicating that he violated the gag order in that case. Additionally, Trump can be questioned about a 2018 ruling in a lawsuit involving his foundation.

The judge ruled that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) cannot mention sanctions imposed against Trump in a lawsuit he filed against Hillary Clinton in Florida, along with several other “bad acts” that prosecutors wanted to cross-examine Trump about, The Hill noted.

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“Merchan’s ruling is designed to give Trump’s legal team an informed view as it mulls whether the former president should take the stand in his defense,” said the outlet.

Trump has said he would take the stand in his defense, but it is rare for a defendant to do so, and defense attorneys normally don’t recommend it. He’s not required to take the stand, and jurors are not permitted to hold it against him if he doesn’t.

The Hill added:

At Friday’s arguments, Trump attorney Emil Bove contended that raising Carroll’s case, in particular, would be too “salacious” and urged the judge against allowing prosecutors to mention it. 

It “pushes the salaciousness onto another level. This is a case about documents,” Bove said. 

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Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo countered that the defamation verdict included a finding that Trump’s denials of Carroll’s sexual assault claims were “false and published with actual malice,” saying it is relevant as they attempt to damage Trump’s credibility on the stand. 

In referring to Trump’s civil fraud case, where the judge found he conspired to alter his net worth for tax and insurance benefits, prosecutors similarly intend to highlight that the judge determined Trump “repeatedly and persistently” falsified business records, issued false financial statements, and conspired to commit insurance fraud.

It is important to note that bank representatives Trump did business with for decades testified on his behalf in the fraud case, which Judge Arthur Engoron presided over and which NY Attorney General Letitia James filed.

They claimed that they carried out their due diligence regarding property valuations before making loans and that none of them suffered harm or lost money on any of those deals.

Trump has appealed the ruling.

Initially, Engoron agreed to James’ demands for fines over $450 million but an appeals court has since lowered it to $175 million.

Trump secured a bond from a California-based company within days, which then halted the process of James being able to begin seizing his properties to satisfy the bond.

Engoron on Monday refused James’ request to toss out the $175 million bond on the alleged grounds that the bond company was not allowed to do business in New York.

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