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Trump to attend NY civil trial as accountant testifies for defense

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Donald Trump is set to attend his New York civil fraud trial on Thursday, where an accountant will testify to try to boost the former U.S. president's case that his family company did not manipulate the values of its holdings.

Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at New York University, is the defense's second-to-last witness in a trial over a lawsuit brought by the state's attorney general accusing Trump, his adult children and family company of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to dupe lenders and insurers.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024, is expected to testify as the final defense witness on Monday. He has denied wrongdoing and said New York Attorney General Letitia James, an elected Democrat, is biased against him.

James has said Trump, his adult sons and 10 of his businesses manipulated financial statements to dupe banks and insurers into providing more favorable loan and insurance terms.

The trial largely concerns damages, because the judge overseeing the case, Justice Arthur Engoron has already found that Trump's financial statements were fraudulent.

Engoron has imposed gag orders in the case restricting Trump and his lawyers from speaking publicly about court staff, after Trump published a photo of the judge's main law clerk with Democratic U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer on social media and falsely called the clerk Schumer's "girlfriend."

Engoron said the post left the court "inundated" with threats from Trump supporters. Trump is appealing the gag orders.

James is seeking $250 million in penalties, and wants Trump banned from New York state real estate business.

Over the past several weeks, bankers and others who did business with the Trump Organization have testified for the defense that they did not rely solely on Trump's valuations in deciding deal with his company.

Trump faces four unrelated federal and state criminal indictments, including two over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

He has pleaded not guilty in all of those cases.

None of them have dented his commanding lead in the race to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in next November's election. (Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Nick Zieminski)

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