In a defiant display, Donald Trump vigorously defended his business conduct under oath, engaging in heated exchanges with a New York judge during his civil fraud trial. Taking the stand in a Manhattan court, Trump was grilled by the state attorney general’s office, which accused him and his corporation of exaggerating his net worth for profit.
Trump claimed his financial statements, rather than overstating his wealth, failed to fully account for his actual riches, arguing that the banks lending him money were indifferent to the accuracy of these statements.
Initially composed, Trump’s demeanor shifted as the morning progressed, becoming visibly agitated, directing sharp remarks at Attorney General Letitia James, present in the courtroom, and pointing at Justice Arthur Engoron, the trial’s presiding Judge.
Trump told the Judge that it was a terrible thing he had done. “You know nothing about me,” Trump charged at the Judge. “You believed that political hack back there!”
Throughout his testimony, Trump insisted his financial statements were conservative, citing massive cash reserves, minimal debt, and an innate sense of property valuation. He argued that he couldn’t be held liable for the estimates in the statements because they included disclaimers about their reliability.
“We have a disclaimer clause which every court in the country holds up except for this particular judge,” Trump said.
Trump’s testimony saw him elaborate on the eagerness of banks to collaborate with him, boasting, “They liked me very much.” This prompted Engoron to dismiss such claims from the record.
This court appearance marked Trump’s first as a witness in the trial, although he had previously attended and engaged with Engoron. With his reputation as a property magnate and his business practices under scrutiny, Trump faces potential consequences should his testimony prove false.
Earlier in the day, Trump veered off-topic; Engoron urged direct answers and admonished Trump’s lawyers to manage their client, stating, “Control him if you can. If you can’t control him, I will.”
Outside the courtroom, Trump had been critical of Engoron, suggesting a biased outcome was inevitable, “I’m sure the judge will rule against me because he always rules against me,” he claimed in court.
Trump’s counsel, Chris Kise, requested that his client be allowed to elaborate on his answers. Engoron responded with a reminder that the courtroom was no place for political rallies or editorializing.
When questioned about his involvement in the company’s 2021 financial statement, Trump referenced his prior responsibilities as president, dealing with international affairs—despite not holding office during that year.
Speaking to the press, Trump labeled the trial as absurd and an act of “election interference.”
Attorney General James, a Democrat, anticipated Trump’s combative approach before his testimony, emphasizing that the decisive factors would be the factual data and figures, which “don’t lie.”
She seeks $250 million in damages and stringent restrictions on Trump’s New York business operations, alleging a decade-long scheme to inflate asset values for financial advantage.
Following testimonies from two of Trump’s sons last week, Ivanka Trump’s upcoming deposition will pave the way for the defense to present their case, with Trump indicating that prominent bankers and experts will take the stand.