Donald Trump has taken the witness stand in a civil fraud trial in New York, attacking the judge and calling the proceedings a “political witch-hunt”.
The former United States president was reprimanded on Monday by Judge Arthur Engoron for turning his statements into a “political rally” during his appearance in the Manhattan courtroom after testimony from two of his sons last week.
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“We don’t have time to waste. We have one day to do this,” an exasperated Engoron said. Trump was previously placed under a narrow gag order after making disparaging remarks about court staff.
The ex-president is struggling with a long list of legal woes, including four criminal trials, some related to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, in addition to the civil trial focused on his practices as a businessman.
Yet, his legal troubles have done little to damage his popularity with Republican voters, and he remains the overwhelming favourite in the race to become the party’s candidate in the 2024 presidential election.
New York state lawyers have argued that Trump used deceptive methods to artificially inflate his net worth, winning him access to favourable loans and deals.
In late September, Engoron ruled that Trump had indeed committed fraud for years by massively overstating his wealth. Several other claims in the case have yet to be resolved along with potential punishment.
“He called me a fraud, and he did not know anything about me,” Trump said of the judge sitting near him during his testimony on Monday.
“I’m sure the judge will rule against me because he always rules against me,” he said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James – who brought the case against Trump, his sons Donald Jr and Eric, and executives with the Trump Organization – is seeking $250m in fines and a ban on Trump or his sons from doing business in New York state.
Trump called James a “political hack” on Monday and has consistently attacked her during speeches and in social media posts.
Speaking to reporters before Trump’s testimony, James brushed aside those attacks. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers,” she said. “And numbers, my friends, don’t lie.”
Engoron has previously fined Trump $15,000 for violating the gag order that allowed him to criticise the trial but barred him from making comments about court staff.
In recent days, Trump has called the judge a “wacko” and a “RADICAL LEFT, DEMOCRATIC OPERATIVE” in posts on social media.