Donald Trump Spars With Judge While Testifying In New York Fraud Trial

By Bill Galluccio

November 6, 2023

Former President Trump Testifies In Trump Organization Civil Fraud Case
Photo: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump testified under oath on Monday (November 6) during his civil fraud trial in New York City. The $250 million lawsuit was filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who claims Trump and his co-defendants fraudulently inflated the worth of his assets on financial statements to get better deals on loans and insurance policies.

In addition to the $250 million in fines, James also wants to bar Trump and his adult sons, Erik and Donald Jr., from doing business in the state.

Trump gave a preview of his defense strategy during early questioning by Kevin Wallace of the attorney general's office. When asked about the financial statements that are at the heart of the case against him, Trump said that the bankers didn't really use them when deciding whether to give him loans.

"We'll explain that as this trial goes along. This crazy trial goes along. Because we're bringing in the bankers. Very big bankers," Trump says. "They will explain exactly what their process is."

Trump also tried to distance himself from those statements, saying he left the details up to the accountants.

"All I did was authorize and tell people to give whatever is necessary to supply the accountants for the statements," he said. "I authorized whatever they needed to do to get their statement done."

Trump became a bit combative on the stand and criticized those bringing charges against him.

"You and every other Democratic district attorney, AG, U.S. Attorney were coming after me from 15 different sides. All Democrats, all Trump haters," Trump said.

Judge Arthur Engoron admonished Trump about his answers, telling him not to give political speeches.

"Some of your answers have not been in response to the question," Engoron said. "Mr. Wallace is being very patient. I would like to move this along."

"Please just answer the questions, no speeches," Engoron added.

Trump continued to speak his mind while testifying, irking Engoron, who urged Trump's attorney, Chris Kise, to "control your client."

"This is not a political rally. This is a courtroom," he added.

"In addition to the answers being non-responsive, they're repetitive. We don't have time to waste. We have one day with this witness," Engoron noted.

Trump also chastised Engoron several times. When asked about a 2014 financial statement, Trump pointed out it was past the statute of limitations.

"First of all, it's so long ago -- this is well beyond the statute of limitations," Trump said. "But I'm sure the judge will rule against me because he always rules against me."

At another point, Engoron ordered Trump to answer the questions directly.

"I don't want to hear everything he has to say," Engoron told Trump's attorneys.

"Mr. Kise, that was a simple yes or no question. We got another speech. 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."

After some back and forth between Engoron and Trump's lawyers, Trump stated: "This is a very unfair trial. I hope the public is watching."

After a break, Wallace continued to question Trump about the values of his properties and his involvement in producing the financial statements. When asked about the value of his Seven Springs property, Trump admitted the value seemed high in 2014 and said it was eventually lowered, though he didn't know when.

Wallace also asked Trump about the valuations of two Vornado properties.

"Do you believe the stated value here, $816 million, was based on true and accurate information?" Wallace asked.

"I think so. I hope so," Trump said. "If you go to 2021, where it's more familiar to me because it's more updated, I think that would be a low number."

However, when asked about 2021, Trump said he was not involved in producing the statements, suggesting that was the job of former CFO Allen Weisselberg and ex-Trump Org. executive Jeff McConney.

"I don't know, that's when it was in the trust," Trump explained.

Trump seemed to be better at keeping his answers short and on topic following the break, but Engoron interrupted Trump when he started talking about one of his golf courses.

"Irrelevant, irrelevant, answer the question," Engoron said.

When asked about the Mar-a-Lago valuation, Trump lashed out against Attorney General Letitia James, calling her a "political hack."

"What’s going on here, how can a thing like this be going on? It’s disgraceful," Trump said.

"This is a political witch hunt, and I think she should be ashamed of herself."

After a lunch break, Trump was asked if he "maintained accurate books and records."

“I hope so, I didn’t keep them myself. I hope so,” Trump responded.

“You don’t know one way or the other?” Wallace followed up.

“I assume so,” Trump answered. “I have people. I pay them a lot of money, they’re accountants. I assume they keep good records.”

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