Former President Donald Trump took the stand in his New York civil fraud trial on November 6, 2023. Reports from the courthouse detailed the former president's attacks on prosecutors and the judge himself. The trial, taking place in New York Superior Court, revolves around fraud allegations that could potentially destroy Trump's business empire. The judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, expressed his frustration with Trump's behavior and warned his attorneys to control him. Engoron even threatened to excuse Trump from testifying and draw negative inferences from his actions.
During his testimony, Trump repeatedly referred to the trial as unfair and expressed hope that the public would be watching. He made long-winded speeches and provided evasive answers to questions. At one point, Kevin Wallace, the lawyer for the Attorney General's office, quipped that Trump's answers seemed to go on forever, referencing the former president's tendency to give lengthy responses. The judge had to remind Trump and his attorneys that the courtroom was not a political rally and urged them to provide direct and responsive answers.
The trial is focused on determining the damages in the case, as Judge Engoron has already found Trump guilty of fraud. In a previous ruling, Engoron determined that Trump had systematically inflated his assets on financial statements to gain favorable terms from banks and insurers. As a result, the judge ordered the effective dissolution of the Trump Organization and other Trump businesses in New York. The judge will ultimately decide the penalties that Trump and his company will face.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump and his two adult sons, seeking $250 million in damages. The lawsuit alleges that Trump and his sons knowingly committed fraud by inflating the value of their assets to secure loans and insurance rates. Trump has repeatedly criticized Judge Engoron, claiming bias and arguing that the judge always rules against him. He has also attacked the judge's law clerk, resulting in fines for violating the gag order.
Throughout the trial, Trump's attorneys have attempted to undermine the credibility of the judge and his clerk by suggesting bias. They have raised objections to the judge's interactions with his clerk, implying that it creates a perception of bias. The judge has responded strongly to these claims, threatening to expand the gag order against Trump's entire legal team. Despite the tense atmosphere in the courtroom, the trial is set to continue, with Letitia James vowing to pursue the case and not be bullied or harassed.
In his testimony, Trump downplayed the significance of his financial statements, claiming that they were not documents that banks paid much attention to. He argued that there was a disclaimer clause stating that banks should do their own due diligence and not rely solely on the statements. Trump's defense team has attempted to use this disclaimer to argue that he is not liable for any fraudulent activity.
The trial has showcased the contentious relationship between Trump and the judge. Trump's behavior on the witness stand, his attacks on the judge and prosecutors, and his evasive answers have created a tense atmosphere in the courtroom. The outcome of the trial will have significant implications for Trump's business empire and his reputation.
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