Trump got into several contentious back-and-forths with the judge, Arthur Engoron, who complained throughout the former president’s testimony about vague answers and political speeches. Trump at times defended himself and attacked the prosecution’s case. He said he was the victim of a political prosecution.
“This is political warfare, as you would call it. Or political law-fare, another name. I got a lot of names for it,” Trump said in remarks before entering the courthouse Monday morning. “Usually it takes place in third world countries and banana republics. Nobody has ever seen that to this extent, we’ve never seen it here.”
The court case stems out of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into Trump’s business practices. James, who campaigned on targeting Trump for prosecution, has charged Trump, his companies, and members of his family of lying on property valuations to secure favorable loan terms and other advantages illegally. James is seeking $250 million and restrictions on Trump’s ability to do business in New York.
At one point during Trump’s testimony, Engoron threatened to dismiss the former president and “draw every negative inference that I can” because of the former president’s answers to questions.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise had encouraged Engoron to give Trump latitude when it came to answering questions. “With this witness, it’s far more efficient to listen and take it all in,” Kise said, according to CBS News.
“No, I’m not here to hear what he has to say. … I’m here to hear him answer questions. Sit down!” Engoron exclaimed. “We got another speech. I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can.”
James’ office alleged that financial statements from Trump’s business properties over the years inflated their worth and allowed him to illegally enrich himself.
Trump said that if there were errors in the documents, a disclaimer protected him.
“The disclaimer clause says if there’s a mistake, if there’s something, don’t rely on it,” Trump said. The disclaimers “always hold up in court, except maybe this court.”
For instance, prosecutors pressed Trump on the changing valuation of his Trump Tower apartment; the value changed in financial documents from $327 million in 2016 to roughly $116.8 million the next year. The change came after Forbes had reported in an article that Trump had inflated his net worth, according to CNN.
The former president said he was “probably” involved in the change and acknowledged that mistakes may have been made in the earlier valuation. He referenced several possible scenarios in which such a mistake could have been made.
“There’s a disclaimer clause where you don’t have to get sued by the attorney general of New York,” Trump said, according to CNN.
“If I wanted to build up the statement like you said I did before you found out just how rich we are, I would’ve added brand value here and I would’ve increased it by tens of millions of dollars,” Trump later added.