In a dramatic conclusion to the civil fraud trial that has cast a shadow over his business empire, former US President Donald Trump took center stage, denouncing the case as politically motivated and asserting his innocence. The trial, which began in October, revolves around allegations that Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable loans.
Trump, who had been conspicuously absent from much of the trial, surprised the courtroom by delivering a five-minute speech, expressing that he had been victimized and suggesting electoral interference. “They want to make sure I don’t win again. This is partially electoral interference,” he claimed. Trump also insisted that he did nothing wrong and should be compensated for the ordeal.
His lawyer, Christopher Kise, had initially sought Trump’s involvement in delivering part of the closing argument, but the idea was abandoned after Judge Arthur Engoron insisted that any remarks be directly related to the evidence. However, as Kise concluded his closing remarks, Trump requested permission to speak, catching the judge off guard.
During his impromptu speech, Trump declared himself an innocent man, citing persecution by someone running for office. Judge Engoron admonished Trump to stay within the lines, but the former president continued with a fast-talking tirade.
The trial centers on allegations that Trump overstated the value of his properties by over $2 billion, allowing him to secure loans and insurance on favorable terms. The judge has already concluded that Trump committed fraud, and the trial is now determining potential penalties. New York Attorney General Letitia James seeks $370 million in damages and sanctions that could prevent Trump and his adult sons from conducting business in New York.
In a nearly two-hour closing argument, Kise argued that valuing real estate is an inexact science and emphasized that Trump had relied on reputable accountants. However, Judge Engoron disputed the notion that a third party needed to suffer harm for a defendant to repay ill-gotten gains.
Meanwhile, in a separate case, Trump faces criminal charges in Georgia and Washington related to his conduct after the 2020 election. The New York trial has been marked by the unique occurrence of Trump and three of his adult children, Donald Jr, Eric, and Ivanka, taking the witness stand.
As Trump’s legal battles intensify, the Republican presidential primary race kicks off, adding a political dimension to his courtroom dramas. The outcome of the New York fraud trial could have significant implications for Trump’s business legacy and legal standing. Judge Engoron is expected to issue a final written ruling by the end of the month.
The conclusion of the civil fraud trial coincides with several other criminal cases against Trump, heightening the legal challenges he faces. Another civil case, a second lawsuit from writer E. Jean Carroll, is set to begin later this month. The courtroom tensions have not been limited to legal arguments, with Trump’s legal team alleging bias against Judge Engoron and even insulting his clerk on social media, leading to a monetary penalty. Additionally, a recent threat made against Judge Engoron’s home added a concerning dimension to the already high-profile trial.