Eduardo Munoz Alvarez Associated Press Former President Donald Trump waiting to appear on the witness stand at New York Supreme Court on Monday
And what was supposed to happen happened. Called to testify Monday in the civil trial for fraud affecting his real estate empire in New York State, former US President Donald Trump finally showed himself to be equal to himself before Judge Arthur Engoron: he he did not respect the rules of procedure, he took advantage of his speaking time to talk a lot about himself and he exposed some “alternative” realities while hoping that his interlocutors would accept them without question. Selected pieces.
Call to order
Less than an hour after taking his place in the witness box, the populist, and first ex -American president to find himself in such a situation since Theodore Roosevelt in 1915 in a case where he was accused of slander, was rebuffed by the judge.
“Can you control your client,” Mr. Engoron asked the ex-president’s lawyer, Chris Kise, after repeatedly suggesting the lawyer “talk” with Donald Trump to force him to comply with the court rules. Throughout his testimony, the judge showed himself exasperated by the witness's attempts not to answer the questions and to take tortuous paths to do so, to take advantage of his platform to denounce the judicial harassment of which he claims victim for months. “This affair is a shame,” the ex-president said in the afternoon while denouncing “electoral interference” since “you want to keep me in this court all day.”
“This is not a political gathering. It's a courtroom,” the judge reminded him earlier in the day, according to comments reported by several American media present on site.
It's not a political gathering. It's a courtroom.
— Arthur Engoron
Donald Trump's lawyer expertly brought politics into the court by referring to his client as the “former and soon-to-be next commander in chief” of the United States, to remind everyone and the court that the accused and witness in this case is currently campaigning for the next presidential election.
A status which allows him to understand “the rules of the courtroom”, said the Republican’s lawyer in substance. “He does not need further instructions” to comply. “Perhaps, but he doesn’t respect them,” said the judge.
Me, myself and me
“Out of place! Irrelevant! Answer the question. » Repeated in different forms, this sentence summarizes the trajectory given by Donald Trump to his testimony Monday morning, he who did not miss an opportunity to boast of his career, his empire and his property when he was called to explain in court the value of its properties.
Remember that the overvaluation of his assets is at the heart of this fraud trial. At the end of September, the New York justice system confirmed that the real estate mogul's empire had indeed been built over several decades of “widespread fraud” and ordered the cancellation of the business licenses of Donald Trump and his children in the state. This decision threatens to collapse the ex-president's empire, as does the image that contributed to his incredible rise from the pages of the tabloids to the White House.
Asked about the value of her golf course located in Aberdeen, Scotland, the former reality TV star took a step aside to refer to the place as an “artistic expression” and the “greatest golf course never built,” he said. On the value of Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence, he preferred to speak of “beauty” and “success”. On a deficit recorded in 2013 by his building at 40, Wall Street, Trump never responded, preferring to denounce the attitude of justice towards him which seeks to take away his wealth like “they do in communist China”, he said.
In the first minutes of his testimony, the ex-president also defended himself from accusations relating to the inflating of his assets in his financial statements to profit from banks and insurance companies, arguing that the value of its name and brand alone was an “asset”. “If I wanted to build a financial statement, all I had to do was increase the value of my brand by $10 million. » And added: “I became president thanks to my brand. I sell books at incredible levels through my brand. »
Strange moment: When Kevin Wallace, the lawyer representing the New York attorney general's office, asked Donald Trump if he had reviewed a financial document related to his empire's 2021 real estate valuation and participated in the preparation of a statement on the matter that year, the latter replied that he had not seen it because he was “so busy at the White House,” he said.
“I was too focused on China, Russia and the security of our country,” he said in court.
Kevin Wallace reminded him that he was not president in 2021. Donald Trump left the White House on January 20 that year, after losing the election in November 2020.
On Wednesday, his daughter Ivanka must succeed him in the witness box, after the notable appearances of his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, last week, key people in the Trump Organization's organizational chart.
Under oath Monday
Manhattan — At 10 a.m., the tempestuous 77-year-old billionaire entered the Manhattan courthouse and immediately attacked New York State Attorney General Letitia James in front of a forest of cameras, who is pursuing him and who assured that the “facts” and “figures” would prove him right.
One year less one day before the presidential election of November 5, 2024 and while a poll is favorable against President Joe Biden, Donald Trump affirmed that “the [American] people understood, saw and did not like” this “very unfair” civil trial.
With a closed face, he entered in the courtroom and sat on the defense bench surrounded by his lawyers.
Attorney General Letitia James, elected Democrat, has filed a civil lawsuit against the staff of the Trump Organization family group, accusing the Trump father and son of having colossally inflated the group's assets – a myriad of companies managing skyscrapers, hotels and luxury residences or golf courses around the world — to obtain better bank loans and more favorable insurance conditions.
She is demanding a $250 million fine and bans on running businesses for the Republican billionaire and his children.
The trial is off to a bad start for the Trump family: a few days before its opening, Judge Arthur Engoron found that the New York State Attorney General's Office presented “conclusive evidence that, between 2014 and 2021, the defendants [had] overstated the assets” of the group by “812 million [to] $2.2 billion » depending on the year, in the figures recorded on Donald Trump's annual financial statements.
As a result of “repeated fraud”, he ordered the liquidation of the companies managing these assets, such as Trump Tower or the neo-Gothic style skyscraper and soon to be centenary at 40 Wall Street. In other words, if the decision, suspended on appeal, was applied, the Republican billionaire would lose control of part of his real estate empire, he who had launched into politics on his image as a successful builder.