NEW YORK — The highly anticipated testimony of former President Trump in his New York civil fraud trial Monday heaved chaotically between defending his business practices and decrying those involved in the case as politically motivated “Trump haters.”
Months of bubbling tensions between Trump and New York Judge Arthur Engoron reached a boiling point in the courtroom almost as soon as the real estate mogul took the witness stand, with the judge at one point asking Trump’s lawyer to control his client.
Trump on numerous occasions used his day in court to attack Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), often drawing the judge’s ire and admonition.
Before the trial even began last month, Engoron found Trump, the Trump Organization and other defendants, including some of his adult children, liable for fraud. Engoron ruled that James had proved the crux of her case that claims the Trumps falsely inflated and deflated the value of the business’ assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage.
That ruling, plus Engoron’s interactive role in the bench trial, has placed him directly in Trump’s line of fire both in court and on social media.
Here are five memorable moments from Trump’s testimony.
Trump under oath
Trump arrived at the New York Supreme Court shortly before court was scheduled to begin Monday, decrying the trial as “political warfare” outside the Manhattan courtroom where he would soon testify. He slowly sauntered to the defense table wearing a stern face.
He was flanked by his attorneys in the fraud case, two lawyers representing him in a separate New York criminal case and campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, in addition to a host of Secret Service agents.
“The people call Donald J. Trump,” a state lawyer said shortly after the day got underway.
Donning a blue suit and tie, Trump took his time walking to the witness stand, where he raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth. The oath marked the start of Trump’s historic testimony as a former president and current White House candidate.
Trump, judge sharply clash
Engoron and Trump frequently wrangled throughout the former president’s daylong testimony.
After Trump aired his frustration over “Democrat” prosecutors and attorneys general “coming after” him, Engoron asked him to keep the political answers to a minimum.
“I’d like to move things along a little faster; please no speeches,” Engoron said, which drew an objection from Trump attorney Chris Kise.
A few questions later, Trump took aim at the judge.
“I’m sure the judge will rule against me because he always rules against me,” Trump said.
In what became a makeshift stump speech from the witness stand, Trump’s political statements and attacks against the judge persisted throughout the morning, causing Engoron to lodge repeated objections to the former president’s winding responses to the state’s questions.
“Mr. Kise, can you control your client? This is not a political rally,” Engoron said.
Politics seep into Trump testimony
As the undisputed front-runner in the GOP presidential primary, it was all but impossible for Trump’s testimony to remain apolitical. Throughout the day, he aired various grievances tied to his legal troubles and the purported political forces behind them.
At one point, he complained that “Democrat” prosecutors and state attorney generals — “all Trump haters,” he said — began to “come after” him.
“Weaponization, they call it,” Trump said.
At another point, state lawyer Kevin Wallace drew attention to Trump’s 2020 presidential loss amid reviewing the former president’s financial statements.
“I was so busy in the White House,” Trump said when asked about the Trump Organization’s 2021 statements of financial condition, calling his priorities “China, Russia and keeping our country safe.”
“Just to clarify the record, you weren’t president in 2021 were you?” Wallace asked.
“No, I wasn’t,” replied Trump, who lost the 2020 election to now-President Biden. Trump left the White House on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021.
Judge: ‘I do not want to hear everything this witness has to say’
As Trump answered questions about his 40 Wall Street property, he snidely remarked that the property’s valuation at $550 million was a “very low number” and that “all you have to do is look at a picture of the building” to know that.
After that remark, Engoron admonished Kise again to take control of his client.
“I would think, respectfully — of all witnesses — your honor would want to hear everything this witness has to say,” Kise said.
“No, I do not want to hear everything this witness has to say,” Engoron angrily replied while Trump shook his head and smiled.
“I am not here and these people are not here to hear what he has to say; we are here to hear him answer questions,” Engoron continued. “It’s very simple. Is this an accurate number? It’s very simple.”
Unprompted, the former president replied: “This is a very unfair trial — very, very — and I hope the public is watching.”
Shortly after, at Wallace’s request, Engoron called a 15-minute break so that Kise, Trump’s attorney, could speak with the former president about streamlining his testimony. That leveled out the day somewhat, and the afternoon of Trump’s testimony largely went off without a hitch.
Trump calls judge, NY AG ‘frauds’
Perhaps the most heated moment of Trump’s testimony occurred when the former president launched a rant raging against the judge and New York attorney general, calling them “frauds” and “political hacks.”
“It’s a disgrace that a case like this is going on; all you have to do is read the legal scholars — the papers — and you’ll know,” Trump said, raising his voice. “This is a political witch hunt.”
Wallace, the state lawyer, had been questioning Trump about whether the former president believed his properties were undervalued on his statements of financial condition and attempted to veer the questioning back in that direction, but Trump ignored him and continued the rant.
“Even yesterday, she’s out there saying ‘fraud, fraud.’ The fraud is her,” Trump said, referring to James.
“He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me,” Trump said of Engoron.