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Donald Trump testifies in civil fraud trial. Follow the latest updates
Legal Interview | 2023/11/06 23:13
Former President Donald Trump vigorously defended his wealth and business on Monday, tangling from the witness stand with the judge overseeing his civil fraud trial and denouncing as a “political witch hunt” a lawsuit accusing him of dramatically inflating his net worth.

Trump’s long-awaited testimony about property valuations and financial statements was punctuated by personal jabs at a judge he said was biased against him and at the New York attorney general, whom he derided as a “political hack.” He proudly boasted of his real estate business — “I’m worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements” — and disputed claims that he had deceived banks and insurers.

“This is the opposite of fraud,” he declared. Referring to New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat whose office brought the lawsuit, he said, “The fraud is her.”

The testy exchanges, and frequent rebukes from the judge, underscored Trump’s unwillingness to adapt his famously freewheeling rhetorical style to a formal courtroom setting governed by rules of evidence and legal protocol. But while his presence on the stand was a vivid reminder of the legal troubles he faces as he vies to reclaim the White House in 2024, it also functioned as a campaign platform for the former president and leading Republican presidential candidate to raise anew to supporters his claims of political persecution at the hands of government lawyers and judges.

“People are sick and tired of what’s happening. I think it is a very sad say for America,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom after roughly three-and-a-half hours on the stand.

Trump’s testimony got off to a contentious start Monday, with state Judge Arthur Engoron admonishing him to keep his answers concise and reminding him that “this is not a political rally.”

Turning to Trump’s attorney at one point, the judge said, “I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will.” The civil trial is one of numerous legal proceedings Trump is confronting, including federal and state charges accusing him of crimes including illegally hoarding classified documents and scheming to overturn the 2020 presidential election. His legal and political strategies have now become completely intertwined as he hopscotches between campaign events and court hearings, a schedule that will only intensify once his criminal trials begin.

Though the fraud case doesn’t carry the prospect of prison as the criminal prosecutions do, its allegations of financial impropriety cut to the heart of the brand he spent decades crafting. The suggestion that Trump is worth less than he’s claimed has been interpreted by him as a cutting insult.


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