Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s combative stand testimony in New York could have significant implications for his business empire and political future.
In what was characterized as a “defiant and rambling performance” by New York Attorney General Letitia James, former U.S. President Donald Trump took the witness stand on Monday in a high-stakes civil fraud trial in New York. According to CBC News, the proceedings saw Trump clashing with the presiding Judge Arthur Engoron and hurling insults, leading to a stern reprimand and a threat to cut short his testimony.
Engoron, who is tasked with determining the imposition of potentially crippling fines that could impede Trump’s real estate business, at one point appealed to Trump’s counsel Christopher Kise: “Mr. Kise, can you control your client?” His intervention highlighted the courtroom’s departure from Trump’s expectation, reminding those present, “This is not a political rally. This is a courtroom.”
During his approximately three-and-a-half-hour testimony, Trump admitted that his company provided inaccurate estimates of its property values, a practice New York state lawyers argue inflated Trump’s wealth by $2 billion and helped him secure favorable financing terms. This contradicted the Trump Organization’s earlier position, which put the responsibility for financial statements on accountants and lawyers, as per the testimonies of Trump’s sons last week.
Despite the revelations and the judge’s prior ruling that some valuations submitted by the Trump Organization were “fraudulent,” Trump, 77, steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. He insisted that several assets, including the Mar-a-Lago estate and Doral golf course, were undervalued and banks didn’t seriously consider the estimates, claiming, “It wasn’t important. You’ve made it important, but it wasn’t.”
Attorney General James is seeking substantial consequences for the alleged misdeeds: $250 million in fines and operational bans for Trump and his sons Eric and Donald Jr. in New York. Outside the courtroom, James said, “He rambled. He hurled insults. But we expected that. At the end of the day, the documentary evidence demonstrated that, in fact, he falsely inflated his assets to basically enrich himself and his family.”
Trump’s testimony was not devoid of his well-known combative spirit. Before entering the courtroom, he decried what he described as “an unfair situation” and labeled James a “political hack,” to which she responded that Trump was “engaging in distractions, and engaging in name-calling.”
The trial, which does not pose the threat of imprisonment unlike the four criminal cases Trump faces, has nonetheless become a focal point for the former president. He has incurred $15,000 US in fines for violating a limited gag order twice during the trial, which his lawyers suggest could be grounds for an appeal.
As Trump mounts another presidential campaign, the trial continues to garner significant media attention, with the state expected to call its final witnesses this week. It remains uncertain how many witnesses the defense will call. Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter, is due to testify on Wednesday, though she is not a defendant in this case.
With the proceedings originally scheduled to run through early December, they may conclude sooner than anticipated, but the ramifications of this trial are expected to echo well beyond its final gavel.