Judge chides Trump as ex-president testifies in civil fraud trial: ‘This is not a political rally’




NEW YORK: A combative Donald Trump clashed repeatedly with the judge on Monday as he took the stand in the New York civil fraud case threatening to cripple his real estate empire. “This is not a political rally,” New York Supreme Court justice Arthur Engoron told the former president after admonishing him to keep his answers short. “Please, just answer the questions, no speeches,” Engoron said before asking one of Trump’s lawyers, Christopher Kise, to “control your client”.
Trump, the first former US president to take the stand as a defendant in a court case in more than a century, complained in testimony about what he called a “very unfair” and “crazy trial” brought by Democrats “coming after me from 15 different sides”.The 77-year-old Trump, dressed in a dark blue suit and tie with an American flag on his lapel, was sworn in shortly after 10am to begin his testimony.
Trump, his eldest sons Don Jr and Eric, and other Trump Organization executives are accused of exaggerating the value of their real estate assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favourable bank loans and insurance terms.
Testifying under oath, Trump dismissed allegations that the company’s statements of financial condition were fraudulent, and said “they were not really documents that the banks paid much attention to”. He said the value of the “Trump brand” was also not taken into account in the valuations of his real estate assets. “I became president because of my brand,” Trump said under questioning from Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the New York attorney general’s office which brought the case. Before taking the stand, Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, spoke to reporters outside the courtroom, denouncing the case as “election interference”. “It’s a very sad situation,” he said. “It usually takes place in third world countries and banana republics.”
New York state attorney general Letitia James told reporters before Trump’s arrival that the former president had “consistently misrepresented and inflated the value of his assets.” “Before he takes the stand, I am certain that he will engage in name-calling and taunts and race-baiting and call this a witch hunt,” James said. “But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers. “And numbers, my friends, don’t lie.” Trump has repeatedly attacked James, who is Black, as “racist”, and has also gone after Engoron, calling the judge “unhinged” and a “Trump-hating radical left, Democrat operative.” Engoron has responded by slapping Trump with $15,000 in fines for violating a partial gag order imposed after he bashed the judge’s clerk on social media. Trump’s testimony follows that of his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, who took the stand last week and blamed accountants for any inaccuracies in the financial statements of the company.
Trump has already given testimony twice in connection with this case, both times in closed-door depositions


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