Former president Donald Trump took the witness stand in his civil fraud trial on Monday, which will determine his punishment for defrauding bankers and insurers by inflating his net worth. Within minutes, his testimony devolved into a chaotic spectacle before a packed house, the New York Times reports, with Trump lashing out at his accusers, even while conceding involvement in some of the conduct at the case’s heart. He called New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, a “political hack,” said the trial was “very unfair,” and lashed out against the judge overseeing the case Arthur F. Engoron, for a previous finding that Trump’s financial statements contained fraud. “He called me a fraud, and he didn’t know anything about me!” Mr. Trump said from the stand. Engoron will determine the outcome of the case, rather than a jury.
James has asked that Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, pay a $250 million penalty, in addition to being ousted from his company and be permanently barred from the world of New York real estate. During his testimony, Trump alternately accepted and avoided responsibility. He admitted to some involvement in the preparation of his financial statements, and said that he had depended on the banks to rely on them. But he also sought to minimize the importance of those financial statements, calling them “essentially worthless,” and said most of the work was done by aides. After the testimony, Attorney General James said that Mr. Trump had “rambled” and “hurled insults” but that “evidence demonstrated that in fact, he falsely inflated his assets to basically enrich himself and his family.” Christopher M. Kise, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, had a differing opinion: “In my 33 years, I have not had a witness testify better,” he said.