Donald Trump testifies in civil fraud trial, repeatedly clashes with judge against "political witch hunt"

World Tuesday 07/November/2023 06:11 AM
Donald Trump testifies in civil fraud trial, repeatedly clashes with judge against "political witch hunt"

New York: Former US President Donald Trump had a contentious day on the witness stand while testifying in the civil fraud trial on Monday, a case which accuses him and his company of committing "rampant fraud", the Washington Post reported.

Trump drew multiple warnings from the trial judge for veering off topic and criticising the proceedings, but he continued to staunchly defend the way he and the Trump Organisation valued their properties.

From the witness stand, Trump launched attacks against the attorney general, the judge calling the case a "political witch hunt" and said that "the fraud is on the court, not on me", CNN reported.

"What's going on here, how can a thing like this be going on? It's disgraceful," Trump said after being asked about the Mar-a-Lago property evaluation.

Slamming New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump said, "This is a political witch hunt and I think she should be ashamed of herself".

Trump also criticised Judge Arthur Engoron again for the ruling that Trump committed fraud issued before the trial.

Further during the hearing, Trump also said, "I became president because of my brand".

The judge in the case, Arthur F Engoron, expressed frustration on the former President's "repeated interruption". He even threatened to remove Trump from the witness stand. "This is not a political rally," Engoron said to Trump, telling Trump's attorney Christopher Kise to "control your client," CNN reported.
"The former and soon-to-be chief executive of the United States understands the rules," Donald Trump's lawyer said.

On this, the judge shot back, "But he doesn't abide by them".

Engoron also interrupted Trump's "irrelevant" answer to questions about Scotland golf course valuation. "Irrelevant, irrelevant, answer the question," Engoron said speaking over Trump.

New York Attorney General Letitia James called Donald Trump's actions and attacks against her and Judge Arthur Engoron on the stand "distractions", CNN reported

Notably, the high-stakes civil case strikes at the heart of Trump's brand - his real estate empire, according to CNN.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump for USD 250 million and seeking to bar him from doing business in the state. Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his co-defendants were "liable for fraud".

The New York attorney general's office said they will rest their case after Ivanka Trump's testimony on Wednesday.

Trump also acknowledged there had on occasion been mistakes, such as the Trump Tower apartment valuation.

Wallace took the answer to pin him down on that valuation. "You believe that as of today Mar-a-Lago is worth USD 1.5 billion?" Wallace asked. "I think between a billion and a billion-five," Trump responded.
During the hearing, the attorney general's office pressed the former President on the properties central to his identity and brand: Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower and other key parts of his real estate empire.

The AG's office attorney Kevin Wallace pressed Trump on why valuations of properties were changed, such as his Trump Tower triplex which was devalued on his financial statement in 2017 after a Forbes article found he had dramatically exaggerated the size of the apartment, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump denounced the case as "election interference." "It's a very sad situation," he said. "It usually takes place in third-world countries and banana republics."

Donald Trump said "I think it went very well. I think you saw what I had to say today and it was very conclusive...Everything we did was absolutely right," Trump told reporters as he exited the courtroom.
"But, anyway, this is a case that should have never been brought and it's a case that should be immediately dismissed," CNN quoted him as saying.

Notably, Trump has already been fined USD 15,000 for twice violating a gag order that bars him from making statements about court employees, according to The Washington Post.

Prior to Trump, his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Junior also testified in the case. The attorney general said her office looks forward to hearing Ivanka Trump's testimony Wednesday and closing the case, CNN reported.