Former President Donald Trump was called to the witness stand on Monday in the New York civil fraud trial against him.
The $250 million lawsuit alleges that Trump, 10 of his companies and his co-defendants, including his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., inflated the value of assets in financial statements to secure better deals on loans and insurance.
Trump denied any direct involvement in the creation of the financial statements, just like his sons did in their testimonies last week, according to The Associated Press.
“All I did was authorize and tell people to give whatever is necessary for the accountants to do the statements,” he said. “I would look at them, I would see them, and maybe on some occasions, I would have some suggestions.”
Apart from denying wrongdoing, Trump leveled attacks at Judge Arthur Engoron and Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case forward.
“It’s a disgrace that a case like this is going on; all you have to do is read the legal scholars — the papers — and you’ll know,” Trump said on the witness stand. “This is a political witch hunt.”
Trump said that James didn’t understand “how good a company” he built and accused her office of trying to “demean” and “hurt” him, per CNN.
James is seeking to ban Trump’s ability to conduct business in the state of New York, which could ultimately force Trump to give up his prized real estate. This would include relinquishing control over holdings like the Trump Tower, 40 Wall Street, golf courses as well as suburban real estate.
Meanwhile, of Engoron, Trump said, “He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me,” while raising his voice and pointing at the judge.
He was referring to Engoron’s pre-trial decision, where he found the Trump organization and its executives liable for fraud.
“I think it’s fraudulent, the decision,” Trump added. “The fraud is on the court, not on me.”
In October, Trump was fined $10,000 twice for violating a gag order imposed by Engoron. Upon receiving the second penalty, he stormed out of the courtroom, surprising “even his own lawyers and his Secret Service agents, who went scurrying after him,” NBC News reported.
During Trump’s testimony, Engoron lost patience with his long answers that were not focused on the questions. He asked Trump’s lawyers to control their client and asked Trump to refrain from treating the courtroom like “a political rally.”
“In addition to the answers being nonresponsive, they’re repetitive. We don’t have time to waste. We have one day with this witness,” Engoron said, as MSNBC’s reporter Kyle Griffin posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Meanwhile, the former president continued playing up the fact that Engoron was targeting him.
“I’m sure the judge will rule against me, because he always rules against me,” Trump said at one point, per CNN.
One of his attorneys, Alina Habba, told reporters during the lunch break that the judge had “predetermined” the verdict of the trial and was not interested in what the former president had to say.
Engoron will decide the outcome of the trial after the hearings conclude in late December.
Trump was questioned about various properties like the 40 Wall Street building in Manhattan, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Trump International Gold Links in Aberdeen, Scotland.
When asked to acknowledge the discrepancy related to the number of properties that can be built on his property in Aberdeen, Trump said that it was “one of the greatest pieces of land” he’s ever seen, before Engoron interrupted Trump and said, “Irrelevant, irrelevant.”
In a vague response, Trump said, “It’s sort of like a painting. You can do pretty much what you want to do. The land is there and you can do what you want to do,” per MSNBC News.
He also claimed that the estimates of his properties being used in the questioning weren’t deemed important by the banks.
“You’ve made it important, but it wasn’t,” Trump said.
His daughter, Ivanka Trump, is set to testify on Wednesday.