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Defiant Trump clashes with judge in New York civil fraud case

Former president testifies after sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump testified last week. 

Published: November 6, 2023 7:24am

Updated: November 7, 2023 7:31am

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly bemoaned what he deemed an unfair trial on Monday while on the stand in his New York civil fraud case, earning exasperated admonitions from Judge Arthur Engoron.

Trump's behavior further prompted a furious exchange between the judge and Trump's attorney. Engoron, was, according to courtroom reports, frustrated with Trump failing to answer questions in a yes-no-format, in the trial in which the Trump organization and its principals are accused of inflating assets to gain favorable interest rates. 

The judge, during the proceedings, urged the former president's attorney over her client's testimony, saying, "Control him."

"I beseech you to control him if you can," Engoron told Trump attorney Alina Habba. "If you can’t, I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can."

Engoron also said: "We are not here to hear what he has to say. We are here to listen to him answer questions."

Habba responded: "Yes, you are here to listen to what he has to say."

The judge yelled at Habba: "Sit down!"

The court adjourned for a break shortly thereafter. 

Trump, who is seeking 2024 reelection, outside of the courtroom Monday essentially previewed the strategy behind his testimony on the stand. 

"It's a very unfair situation," said Trump, who has a large lead in the GOP presidential primary. "This is really election interference that's going on," Trump said. "It's a very sad situation for our country. We shouldn't have this."

The start of Trump's testimony had focused on his role as trustee of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and how he had removed and restored himself as the sole trustee on several occasions.

Trump testified that he thought some of the valuations such as that of his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, were off, but he did not bother to change them because he "didn't care.

"The most valuable asset was the brand value and that wasn’t on the statement," Trump also said. "If I wanted to build a statement to show how reach we really are, I would have included brand value."

Engoron, citing the Palm Beach County assessor, appraised the value of Mar-a-Lago as being worth between $18 million and $27.6 million, but Trump said the estate is worth between "50 to 100 times" more than that.

Before entering the courtroom Monday, Trump said he was looking forward to testifying after his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, testified last week. His daughter Ivanka is also set to testify as early as this week.

Trump also said that the public knows what is happening to him.

"Meanwhile, the people of our country understand it. They see it. And they don't like it."

Speaking about the numerous civil and criminal legal battles that he faces while campaigning in the 2024 presidential election, Trump said: "Usually it takes place in third-world countries and banana republics."

He said he would win the 2024 election and vowed to "fight very hard for our country" before walking into the courtroom. 

Before entering the courthouse Monday, state Attorney Letitia James said: "Before he takes the stand, I am certain that he will engage in name-calling and taunts and race-baiting and call this a witchhunt, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers, and numbers, my friends, don't lie."

After being hit with another gag order in the case on Friday, Trump on Monday reposted his old Truth Social posts criticizing James, Engoron and others involved in the case.

James is seeking $250 million in damages and an order to bar Trump and his two sons from leading businesses in New York State.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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