Donald Trump unleashed fiery rhetoric in court Monday in a civil fraud case against him and his business, attacking the New York attorney general who brought the case and the judge overseeing the trial, according to reports. CNN.
Trump's testimony was at times reminiscent of his remarks on the campaign trail, where the former president has made four criminal cases against him - along with a civil fraud case brought by the New York attorney general - a central part of his case for his re-nomination for the presidency in 2024 year.
Judge Arthur Engoron, who clashed with Trump throughout the trial, initially tried to stop the former president's political barbs and speeches, and asked the lawyer to control his client or the judge would remove Trump as a witness.
Ultimately, the judge stopped trying to control Trump - he and the attorney general's lawyer who questioned Trump allowed him to rant and then largely ignored those messages.
The high-stakes civil case strikes at the heart of Trump's brand: his real estate empire. New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump for $250 million and demanding that he be barred from doing business in the state. Engoron has already ruled against Trump and his co-defendants for fraud.
Election campaign in the courtroom
The former president's rhetoric during his testimony rivaled that of one of his rallies before supporters. He attacked the prosecutor general and the judge and called the whole process a “political witch hunt.”
“This is a political witch hunt, and I think she should be ashamed,” Trump said of James. He used the same barbs throughout the trial, which he repeatedly attended as a spectator.
But on the witness stand, the accusatory rhetoric was even more remarkable as he attacked the judge sitting next to him, with James in the courtroom watching his testimony just meters away.
“The deception is on the court’s side, not on my side,” Trump said. - It's terrible what you did. You believed this political boor and it’s unfortunate.”
Kevin Wallace, a lawyer from the attorney general's office who questioned Trump, tried to poke fun at the former president. But Trump, as is typical of his speaking style, found ways to weave digressions and attacks into his answers, even when answering a question.
After one particularly long monologue, Wallace asked Trump, “Ready?” “Done,” Trump replied.
Trump's rhetoric sparks anger from judge
Engoron tried early in Trump's testimony to stop the former president from making speeches and answer questions instead, but that did little to change Trump's approach. In response, the judge threatened to remove Trump from the witness stand, but this did not stop the former president.
“This is not a political rally,” Engoron addressed Trump and told Kise to “control his client.”
In response, Kise began to persuade Engoron to let Trump speak. At one point, Kise called his client's answers "brilliant." “The court needs to hear what he has to say about these statements,” Kise said. – He tells you that he had no intention of misleading anyone with his answers. That's exactly what he does." Engoron did not agree with this.
“I’m not here to listen to what he has to say,” Engoron said, raising his voice and ordering Trump lawyer Alina Habba and Kise to sit down. “We’re here to hear him answer questions, and most of the time he doesn’t.”
Before testimony could resume, Trump spoke his mind. “This is a very unfair trial. Very, very, and I hope the public is watching,” he said.
After the morning break, Engoron took on a more passive role in monitoring Trump's remarks. He told Wallace he watches Trump's responses "if you want the witness to continue to ramble, not respond to questions, repeat himself."
Of course, confronting the judge will help Trump move forward with the trial: The civil suit is being tried without a jury, so Engoron will decide the outcome of the case.
Trump acknowledged a change in the cost estimate for the Trump Tower triplex
The attorney general's office has pressured Trump over properties that are central to his reputation and brand: Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower and other key parts of his real estate empire.
Wallace demanded that Trump admit the difference in property values in his statements of financial position, financial documents that were found to have fraudulently inflated the former president's net worth to obtain better loan rates. The Attorney General's expert found that the Trump Organization saved $168 million in ill-gotten gains.
Wallace questioned Trump about the reasons for changing the valuation of properties such as his Trump Tower triplex, which was devalued on his financial report in 2017 after a Forbes article revealed that he had grossly inflated the unit's square footage.
In a remarkable exchange, Trump did admit that there were errors in financial reporting, such as in estimating the value of a Trump Tower apartment.
The cost of the apartment dropped from $327 million in 2016 to about $116,8 million in 2017 - this happened after Forbes magazine exposed Trump in 2017 for having an apartment of more than 30 square meters. m, but in fact it is slightly less than 11 thousand square meters. m. Wallace asked Trump if he was involved in the change. “Probably,” Trump responded, then offered several possible explanations.
He acknowledged that “an error may have occurred,” but said that was why his statements contained disclaimers and that banks were responsible for their own due diligence. “There's a disclaimer that says you don't have to get sued by the New York attorney general,” Trump said.
“If I had wanted to make a statement like you said before you knew how rich we were, I would have added brand value on there and increased it by tens of millions of dollars,” Trump said at another point in the questioning.
Trump's beautiful and expensive real estate
The former president's rhetoric was not limited to attacks on those investigating him. He also took the opportunity to play salesman and talk about his property. One of his main complaints against the judge is the reference in his decision to the fact that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million, a figure based on Florida tax assessment data.
“This is a much more valuable property,” Trump said of Mar-a-Lago, “and we will show it in two weeks, or five weeks, or nine weeks, or whenever it happens, that its main value is its use in as a club."
Wallace answered this question to clarify his assessment. “Do you think Mar-a-Lago is worth $1,5 billion today?” Wallace asked. “I think between a billion and a billion and a half,” Trump responded.
When Trump was asked about his golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, the former president was less interested in explaining the discrepancy in the amount of housing he planned to budget for in his financial report than in talking about his plot of land.
“I believe this is the greatest golf course that has ever been built,” Trump said. “It is one of the greatest pieces of land I have ever seen.”
Trump is responsible for the loans at issue in the AG's lawsuit
Wallace spent the last hour of Trump's questioning on numerous loans the Trump Organization received from Deutsche Bank, which became the focus of the civil case against the former president.
Wallace asked Trump to confirm that he signed each of the documents and to acknowledge that they all included clauses requiring annual accurate financial reporting and maintaining $50 million in free cash flow and a net worth of $2,5 billion.
Trump acknowledged the conditions on the loans, but argued that his net worth was much higher than his reports showed and that the loans had been repaid. “This loan was paid in full, no default, no problems, and the bank was delighted. They got all their money back,” Trump said. “The bank really liked me.”
Wallace concluded by asking Trump to confirm that he does not believe his financial statements inflate his net worth. Trump said they were “very good,” before launching another attack that prompted Engoron to say the questioning sounded like a “broken record.”
The attorney general's office spent time discussing various loans with Trump and questioning his financial statements because the loans are a key part of the case. The attorney general's complaint alleges that Trump defrauded the bank by submitting false, inflated financial statements to obtain and service the loans for several years after the initial transaction.
At one point, Trump also took liberties with the facts. When the former president spoke about paying off the loan on his Chicago property, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, he said the loan was “long since paid off.”
This answer made Wallace wary. “Did you know that the loan for the Trump Chicago hotel was paid off last week?” Wallace asked Trump. “I don’t know last week, but I know recently. On time, on schedule,” Trump responded, ignoring the contradiction to his previous statement.
The ex-president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is expected to testify in court on Wednesday, November 8.