Trump and judge clash over ex-president’s testimony

Former US President Donald Trump repeatedly clashed with the judge during his testimony in the fraud trial against him in New York. “This is not a campaign event,” said Judge Arthur Engoron on Monday to the 77-year-old Republican, who wants to run again in the presidential election in a year. “Please just answer questions, no talking.”

At one point, the judge called on Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, to get his client “under control.” The ex-president, in turn, spoke of a “very unfair” and “crazy” process. President Joe Biden’s Democrats would attack him “from 15 different sides.”

On Monday, Trump became the first former US president in more than a century to testify in court as a defendant. He denied under oath the accusation that financial documents relating to his real estate empire were fraudulent: “They weren’t really documents that the banks paid much attention to.”

The New York State Attorney General’s Office, which sued him, accused Trump of not taking the “Trump brand” into account when valuing his properties. “I became president because of my brand,” said the right-wing populist.

Trump is accused of having inflated the assets of his real estate empire by billions of dollars over the years in order to get better conditions for loans and insurance. The Republican rejects the allegations as a politically motivated attempt to harm him before the presidential election in November 2024.

Just before his testimony, Trump told reporters outside the courtroom that he was a victim of “political warfare” and “election interference.” “The people in the country understand that. They see it. And they don’t like it.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James had recently said that Trump would certainly insult those involved in the proceedings again and make racist statements. “But at the end of the day, only facts and figures count,” said the African American, who belongs to the Democratic Party. “And numbers, my friends, don’t lie.”

Trump has already testified twice behind closed doors in the proceedings initiated by James, although in advance of the trial and not in court. He has repeatedly appeared in person in court in the civil proceedings that have been ongoing since the beginning of October.

He used the proceedings as a campaign stage and for attacks against Judge Engoron and Attorney General James. Engoron has already imposed two fines of $5,000 and $10,000 (4,660 and 9,320 euros) on Trump for attacking a court employee.

The judge had already ruled before the actual trial that Trump overstated the assets of his real estate and thereby committed “fraud.” The civil process is therefore particularly concerned with the question of how high the penalty will be.

Attorney General James has asked for a $250 million fine. She also wants Trump and his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Junior and Eric Trump, no longer allowed to run companies in New York. The ex-president is not threatened with a prison sentence in this case.

Trump’s eldest sons, who are part of the management of the family holding company Trump Organization, testified in court last week. They asserted that the financial documents at the center of the proceedings were the responsibility of accountants. Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka, who is no longer a defendant in the proceedings, is also scheduled to testify at the trial this week.

In addition to the civil case, former President Trump has been charged in four criminal cases. Two indictments concern the Republican’s attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and thus stay in power.