Former President Trump took the stand in New York defending himself in the $250 million civil fraud trial brought by state attorney general Letitia James. The former president wasted little time sparring with the judge, sounding off repeatedly from the witness stand. The judge largely ignored the barbs directed his way but warned the former president’s attorneys to keep their client on topic, stating, “I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can.”
Inside the Courtroom: Not a Political Rally
Andrea Bernstine, author of “Oligarchs: The Kushners, American the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power,” has been in the courtroom, covering the trial for NPR. She describes the atmosphere inside the courtroom as nothing like a political rally. The room was much smaller, and Donald Trump had to adhere to courtroom protocols, such as standing when the clerk declared, “All rise,” and swearing to tell the whole truth. This was a rare sight, as Trump had never testified under oath in real time before.
The Trump Organization’s Financial Statements
The judge has already determined that the Trump Organization’s financial statements were filled with fraud, which is central to the lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general. Letitia James accuses Trump of falsely inflating his assets to enrich himself and his family. The evidence presented during the trial supports this claim, showing that Trump persistently engaged in fraud. The numbers don’t lie.
Donald Trump’s Defense in Court
While defending his business record in court, Donald Trump resorted to hurling insults and criticizing the attorney general and the judge. However, when pressed on the contents of the financial statements, he had a few responses. Trump claimed that the statements were old and barely remembered, emphasizing that he was not responsible for their content. He also highlighted that his accountants were expensive and that he paid a significant amount of money for their services. This attempt to distance himself from the statements contradicted his earlier insistence that they undervalued his properties.
Donald Trump’s Remarks to Reporters
Upon exiting the court, Donald Trump addressed reporters and asserted that everything he had said during his testimony was conclusive. He expressed frustration that he was being sued while there were more pressing issues in the world, such as inflation and other problems facing the country. Trump’s remarks to the media, as well as his behavior in the courtroom, could potentially influence the judge’s final decision.
The Outcome of the Trial
As this is a bench trial decided solely by a judge, Donald Trump’s conduct and testimony, along with the evidence presented, will play a significant role in determining the outcome. The judge has already made it clear that Trump can say anything except criticize his staff. The key issue in the trial is whether the Trumps repeatedly lied about the value of their assets, which is a violation of New York law. The attorney general seeks $250 million in damages from the Trumps.
Donald Trump’s Testimony vs. His Sons’ Testimony
The testimonies of Donald Trump and his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., differ regarding who was responsible for the decisions and actions related to the financial statements. While Eric and Donald Jr. claimed that it was the accountants and lawyers who were accountable, Donald Trump pointed to his younger son Eric as the one making the decisions. The judge will ultimately have to determine whether there was a conspiracy involving Donald Trump, his sons, and other Trump employees to repeatedly lie about their assets’ value for financial gain.