Away from cameras and under oath, former President Trump exploded repeatedly while prosecutors grilled him Monday about how his company calculated his net worth and tabulated his assets as it sought hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.
The 2024 Republican presidential front-runner is accused of fraudulently inflating his property values to get better terms on loans and insurance. He is the last person charged in the case to testify. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is expected to testify Wednesday, is not a party in the case.
Wearing a dark blue suit and a bright blue tie, Trump was sworn in before a packed courtroom of journalists and members of the public. Court officers paced the aisles ensuring the prohibition against photos and videos was being followed.
Trump gave long, rambling answers, calling prosecutors who have charged him with crimes “Democrats” and “Trump haters.” He called the current trial “crazy” and said, “I’m sure the judge will rule against me, because he always rules against me.”
Within 15 minutes of questioning, Justice Arthur Engoron was asking Trump to limit his answers to what was asked and referred to Trump’s answers at one point as an “essay.”
He interjected repeatedly before turning to Trump’s attorney Christopher Kise.
“Mr. Kise, can you control your client? This is not a political rally. This is a courtroom,” Engoron said. “Maybe you should have a talk with him right now.”
Kise asked to speak with Trump privately rather than in front of those in the courtroom. Engoron said he wasn’t going to let them waste time.
“I think the former and soon-to-be chief executive understands the rules,” Kise said.
“He doesn’t abide by them,” Engoron said.
After 30 minutes, Engoron was losing his patience.
“I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will,” Engoron said.
At one point, two of Trump’s lawyers stood up and spoke over each other as they disagreed with the judge about how long his answers could be. Engoron ordered them to sit down.
“This is a very unfair trial, very, very, and I hope the public is watching,” Trump said.
The case, which was brought by New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James following a three-year investigation, puts Trump’s real estate empire and reputation as a businessman at stake.
In September, Engoron granted partial summary judgment against Trump and the other defendants, concluding that from 2014 through 2021, they had materially overvalued Trump’s assets by $812 million to $2.2 billion. Engoron ordered that many of the Trump Organization’s business certifications be canceled, and required a receiver to manage the liquidation of assets and dissolution of the affected businesses.
Trump’s answers became much more succinct after a short break, but he soon lost his temper, raising his voice and pointing at the attorney general and judge as he went on a lengthy tirade about the trial.
“He called me a fraud and he didn’t know anything about me,” Trump said of Engoron. “I think it’s fraudulent. I think the fraud is on the court, it is not on me.”
Engoron furrowed his brow as Trump continued.
“It’s a terrible thing you’ve done. You know nothing about me, you believe that political hack back there,” Trump said, referring to James, “and that’s unfortunate.”
Though Trump faces multiple trials, the public is expected to have few chances to see the former president testify. Engoron briefly allowed photographers to enter the courtroom to take photos of Trump at the defense table before he was called to testify.
Trump faces two federal criminal cases that are not expected to be televised. One in Washington, D.C., which is scheduled to begin in March, stems from his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The other in Florida, which is scheduled for late May, is connected to his retention of sensitive national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving the White House.
The former president also faces state-level criminal charges in New York and Georgia. Proceedings in the Georgia case are being streamed live on YouTube. A trial could occur as soon as this summer and would likely be televised. Criminal court proceedings in New York are not open to cameras.