Donald Trump’s civil fraud case has been full of ups and downs. Whether it’s Trump himself making waves or his lawyers, this trial has set the tone for Trump’s year of legal battles.
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Between limited gag orders and outbursts, Judge Engoron has had his hands full. It is important to remember that Trump has already been found guilty of fraud and that the trial is only happening in order to determine the penalties.
In order to limit those, it was Trump’s turn to defend himself on 6 November. But taking the stand didn’t go as Trump planned.
Donald Trump takes the stand and… admits?
On Monday 6 November, Trump took the stand for four hours in order to argue that he had no idea that statements shown to banks and insurance inflated his wealth. Just like his sons did last week, Trump hid behind the work of his accountants and continued to state that he is worth even more than the inflated statements say.
According to the BBC Trump said:
I'm worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements
All I did was authorise and give people whatever was necessary for the accountants to do the statement
However, it is reported that Trump ‘answered in the affirmative’ when shown a ‘term agreement made to Deutsche Bank’ holding his signature and asked if that statement was made to ‘induce lending’. Newsweek reports that many legal experts saw this affirmative answer to be a form of admission that he was indeed aware of the fraud.
Donald Trump attacks the judge
Though the words of defence reported above are to be expected from someone on trial, the 45th President didn’t stop there.
Indeed, Trump continued a habit he started when this trial began which entails grand speeches, usually given to the press outside the courtroom. In those speeches, he enjoys claiming that the prosecutors and the judge are biassed and dislike him.
This habit has already led to Attorney General Leticia James saying that Trump considers the trial to be a ‘political stunt’ and it was once again brought up in court on 6 November, this time by the Judge himself.
Judge Engoron said:
This is not a political rally, this is a courtroom.
The Daily Beast as well as the BBC report that Trump and Engoron had several ‘heated exchanges’. Daily Beast writes that Trump was ‘insulting’ both AG James and the judge. They also report that ‘Trump pointed his finger at Judge Engoron and shouted’:
He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me! (...) The fraud is on the court, not on me.
The continuous screaming and accusing forced Judge Engoron to be firm. Addressing Trump’s lawyers he said:
Can you control your client?
I beseech you to control him (...) If you can't, I will.
Another tactic the judge used - which Daily Beast reports is usually used ‘in grand jury investigations’ - involves the prosecution letting a witness say ‘whatever they want’. This meant that, after a while, Engoron realised that it would be better and shorter to let Trump go on than to try and stop him. Engoron simply punctuated Trump’s tirades with the word:
Is that foreshadowing of what Trump will be after this trial?
Newsweek: Donald Trump's Colossal Admission During Trial
BBC News: Donald Trump clashes repeatedly with judge in heated New York testimony
The Daily Beast: Judge Engoron Made the Right Call: Let Trump Rant and Rave
Newsweek: Letitia James' New Warning to Donald Trump