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Donald Trump returning to civil trial next week with fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen set to testify

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Donald Trump will be back in court next week for his New York civil fraud trial

NEW YORK -- Donald Trump will be back in court next week for his New York civil fraud trial, a person familiar with the former president’s plans told The Associated Press on Thursday, setting up a potential face-to-face showdown with fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, who is expected to testify.

The 2024 Republican front-runner voluntarily attended the first three days of the trial last week, turning the Manhattan courthouse into a campaign stop as he watched testimony and complained to TV cameras about the case, which cuts to the heart of his image as a successful Businessman and threatens to cost him control of marquee properties such as Trump Tower.

Trump is expected to attend the non-jury trial Tuesday through Thursday next week, according to the person who confirmed the plans, which were first reported by news website The Messenger. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity before an official announcement.

“It’s been 5 years since we have seen one another," Cohen said via text message, adding: "I look forward to the reunion. I hope Donald does as well.”

Trump’s trip to the trial last week attracted hordes of news media and led to enhanced security measures at the courthouse, including extra screening checkpoints, metal barricades along the streets and Secret Service agents lining the courtroom walls.

Trump seethed at the defense table last week as a lawyer from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office blasted him as a habitual liar. Outside, Trump decried the trial a “sham,” a “scam,” and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.” After Trump maligned a key court staffer on social media, the judge called him into a closed-door meeting, issued a limited gag order and ordered him to delete the post.

Trump believes his presence in the courtroom is helping his defense. He is angry the state is trying to seize control of a business he spent his life building and is eager to be able to argue his side of the story before cameras as he prepares for an appeal. He's also used the appearances and the attention they've generated to energize his supporters as the fight for the Republican nomination kicks into high gear, and his campaign has sent out fundraising appeals tied to the proceedings.

Cohen is expected to be on the witness stand Tuesday or Wednesday at the trial in James' lawsuit, which alleges Trump, his company and top executives deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

So far, longtime Trump executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney have testified, along with Donald Bender, a former partner at the outside accounting firm that worked on Trump’s financial statements, and Nicholas Haigh, a former bank risk management official who approved Trump for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans based in part on the statements. Another Trump executive, Patrick Birney, took the stand late Thursday and will return Friday.

Cohen, a key witness in the state attorney general's case, spent a decade as Trump’s fiercely loyal personal lawyer before famously turning on him in 2018 amid a federal investigation that sent Cohen to federal prison. He is also a major prosecution witness in Trump’s separate Manhattan hush-money criminal case, which is scheduled to go to trial next spring.

James, a Democrat, has credited Cohen as the impetus for her civil investigation, which led to her Trump fraud lawsuit, citing his testimony to Congress in 2019 that the business mogul-turned-politician had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Trump last week dropped a $500 million lawsuit that accused Cohen of “spreading falsehoods," causing “vast reputational harm” and breaking a confidentiality agreement for talking publicly about hush-money payments made to women during his 2016 campaign.

But a Trump spokesperson said he had only decided “to temporarily pause” the lawsuit as he mounts another campaign for the White House and fights four criminal cases, but said he would refile at a later date.

Cohen went to prison after pleading guilty in 2018 to tax crimes, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations, some of which involved his role in the hush-money payments.

Trump isn’t required to be in court for his civil trial until he testifies in a few weeks. Yet, in a departure from past practice, he's shown intense interest in seeing it in person. That change speaks as much to Trump’s desire to campaign as an aggrieved defendant as it does to the grave stakes involved for him and the real estate empire that vaulted him to fame and the White House.

In a pretrial ruling last month, Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump, the Trump Organization and top executives committed years of fraud by exaggerating the value of Trump’s assets and net worth on his financial statements.

As punishment, Engoron ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, putting the future oversight of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in question. An appeals court on Friday blocked enforcement of that aspect of Engoron’s ruling, at least for now.

The civil trial, which doesn't have a jury because one is not required under the law, concerns allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.

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Colvin reported from Washington.

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