June 24, 2024
Trump Defies Judge, Gives Courtroom Speech on Tense Final Day of N.Y. Civil Trial

Trump Defies Judge, Gives Courtroom Speech on Tense Final Day of N.Y. Civil Trial

(Headline USA) Barred from giving a formal closing argument, Donald Trump wrested an opportunity to speak in court at the conclusion of his New York civil fraud trial Thursday, unleashing a barrage of attacks in a six-minute diatribe before being cut off by the judge.

Trump spoke as far-left judge Arthur Engoron was trying to find out if the former president would follow the judge’s arbitrary stipulations requiring him to keep his remarks focused on matters related to the trial.

Asked whether he would comply with the demands, Trump defied Engoron and simply launched into his speech.

“I am an innocent man,” Trump protested. “I’m being persecuted by someone running for office and I think you have to go outside the bounds.”

Engoron—who earlier denied Trump’s request to give his own closing statement—let him continue almost uninterrupted for what amounted to a brief personal summation, then cut him off for a scheduled lunch break.

Trump’s in-court remarks, which were not televised, ensured a tumultuous final day for a trial over allegations that he habitually exaggerated his wealth on financial statements he provided to banks, insurance companies and others.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who campaigned in 2018 on a promise to prosecute then-President Trump, finally sued the former Manhattan real-estate mogul in 2022, following a four-year fishing expedition that included extensive collusion with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Congressional Democrats and the Biden White House.

James hopes the judge will impose $370 million in penalties and forbid Trump from doing business in New York.

The decision from the leftist judge is almost sure to be appealed, however, following several criticisms over Engoron’s lack of impartiality and his subjective application of the law.

Adding to the day’s tension, the exchanges took place hours after authorities responded to a bomb threat at the judge’s house in New York City’s suburbs. The scare didn’t delay the start of court proceedings.

Trump, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has disparaged Engoron throughout the trial, accusing him in a social media post Wednesday night of working closely with James.

On Wednesday, Engoron had rejected an unusual plan by Trump to deliver his own closing remarks in the courtroom, in addition to summations from his legal team. The sticking point was that Trump’s lawyers would not agree to the judge’s demand that he stick to “relevant” matters and not try to introduce new evidence or make a campaign speech.

After two of Trump’s lawyers had delivered traditional closing arguments Thursday, one of them, Christopher Kise, asked the judge again whether Trump could speak. Engoron asked Trump whether he would abide by the guidelines.

Trump then launched into his remarks.

“This is a fraud on me. What’s happened here, sir, is a fraud on me,” Trump said. He later accused the judge of not listening to him. “I know this is boring to you.”

“Control your client,” Engoron warned Kise.

Engoron then told Trump he had a minute left, let him speak a little more, and then adjourned.

In the afternoon, a lawyer for New York state said in his closing remarks that Trump and his “cash poor” company couldn’t have completed various development projects without loans and cash flow from interest savings enabled by spurious financial statements.

“Fraud was central to the operation of the Trump Organization’s business,” said the attorney, Kevin Wallace. He said that Trump and the other defendants intentionally put false information in the company’s financial statements.

Engoron, who is deciding the case because state law doesn’t allow for juries in this type of lawsuit, ended the court day by saying he hoped to have a final decision in the case by Jan. 31.

“Not a promise, not a guarantee, but I’m reasonably confident,” he said, adding, “You’ll be hearing from me,” as he left the bench.

Trump skipped the afternoon court session in favor of a news conference that served as counter programming to the state’s closing argument.

He peppered his remarks at a lower Manhattan office building he owns—and could lose control of as a result of the trial—with barbs about President Joe Biden and a writer who accused him of rape, E. Jean Carroll.

The trial involves six undecided claims, including allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. Trump’s company and two of his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are also defendants. Eric Trump was also in court for closing arguments.

During his argument, Kise contended Trump did nothing wrong and didn’t mislead anyone about his wealth. He said his client “should get a medal” for his business acumen instead of punishment he deemed the “corporate death penalty.”

“This entire case is a manufactured claim to pursue a political agenda,” Kise said.

Since the trial began Oct. 2, Trump has gone to court nine times to observe, testify and complain to TV cameras about the case.

He clashed with Engoron and state lawyers during 3½ hours on the witness stand in November and remains under a limited gag order after making a disparaging and false social media post about the judge’s law clerk.

Thursday’s arguments were part of a busy legal and political stretch for Trump.

On Tuesday, he was in court in Washington, D.C., to watch appeals court arguments over whether he is immune from prosecution on charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election—one of four criminal cases against him. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, the presidential primary season kicks off with the Iowa caucus.

State lawyers say that by making himself seem richer, Trump qualified for better loan terms from banks, saving him at least $168 million.

Kise acknowledged that some holdings may have been listed “higher by immaterial” amounts, but he added” “there’s plenty of assets that were undervalued by substantial sums.”

Last month, in a ruling denying a defense bid for an early verdict, the judge signaled he’s inclined to find Trump and his co-defendants liable on at least some claims.

“Valuations, as elucidated ad nauseum in this trial, can be based on different criteria analyzed in different ways,” Engoron wrote in the Dec. 18 ruling. “But a lie is still a lie.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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