(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump testified in the trial of New York state’s lawsuit accusing him of inflating his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion to get better terms from banks and insurers.
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Monday’s appearance was Trump’s first time publicly testifying at length in any of the many legal cases currently arrayed against him. Because the suit by New York Attorney General Letitia James is civil, Trump could not decline to testify, as would be his right in a criminal case.
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Trump, 77, was questioned for several hours by Kevin Wallace, a lawyer from James’s office. There were a number of sharp exchanges involving Trump lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, and the judge at one point threatened to remove Trump for essentially making political speeches from the stand. Trump has previously criticized the judge, Arthur Engoron, on social media, just last week calling him a “disgrace,” and his lawyers have also pressed the idea that the judge’s longtime law clerk is biased. Engoron on Friday ordered Trump’s lawyers to stop speaking about his staff and has already fined Trump $15,000 for violating a similar order.
Here’s the latest from court (all times are NY):
Trump Finishes Testimony, Judge Calls It ‘a Broken Record’ (3:25 p.m.)
Trump was excused from the stand after the deputy attorney general finished his questioning. There was no cross-examination. Engoron had just expressed exasperation with a prolonged Trump rant on the unfairness of the case against him. “I’m going to date myself,” the judge said, “but I feel like this is a broken record.” Trump had stated that the banks and his accountants all “seemed to be happy” and that the only complaint about his financial conduct was from James’s office. He called the judge “very hostile” and repeated his previous claims that the case was a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace.”
Trump Says He ‘Easily’ Met Deutsche Bank Liquidity Requirement (2:48 p.m.)
Returning from lunch, Trump testified about his relationship with Deutsche Bank AG, which became his largest lender through private banker Rosemary Vrablic. He acknowledged that a 2012 loan agreement for his Doral golf club in Florida required him to have a net worth of $2.5 billion and liquid assets of $50 million. This wasn’t a problem because he’s “had a lot of cash for a long time,” Trump said. “I think I had $300 million, $400 million in cash.” Trump also said the loan was paid off in full a day before it was due, and the bank was “thrilled.” He has frequently contended that none of the banks he was found to have defrauded lost any money. Wallace asked if Trump was aware the loan was just paid off last week. Trump said he was not.
Trump Calls Judge’s Fraud Ruling ‘Fraudulent’ (12:26 p.m.)
Trump mocked Engoron’s Sept. 26 pre-trial ruling that he committed fraud in valuing his properties by calling the decision itself “fraudulent.” The former president also slammed James from the witness stand, saying “the fraud is her” and bemoaning the fact that she convinced the judge that his Mar-a-Lago resort was only worth $18 million. “I think it’s fraudulent, the decision, the fraud is on the court, not me,” Trump yelled. “He called me a fraud and didn’t even know anything about me!” he added, referring to Engoron. “Done?” Wallace asked after Trump seemed to quiet down. “Done,” Trump answered. Trump’s proposed expert witnesses have previously tried to claim Mar-a-Lago is worth as much as $1.5 billion, even though the use of the land is highly restricted.
Trump Says He Was Too Busy ‘Keeping Our Country Safe’ (11:47 a.m.)
Returning to the stand after a 15-minute recess, Trump said he wasn’t involved in preparing a 2021 statement of financial condition because he was too busy “keeping our country safe” at the time. “My threshold was China, Russia,” Trump said. “But, just for the record, you weren’t president in 2021?” the deputy attorney general asked. “No, I wasn’t,” Trump answered. Trump was also asked about a statement of financial condition that gave the value of his 212-acre Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, New York, as $291 million. Trump said he gave instructions to “lower it” but answered, “I don’t remember” when asked if that was because the valuation was being reviewed by the Internal Revenue Service. Engoron previously found Trump grossly inflated the value of the property, which was appraised several times between 2000 and 2014 at $30 million or less.
Judge Threatens to Excuse Trump as Witness (11:05 a.m.)
A frustrated judge twice threatened to excuse Trump as a witness for filibustering on the stand instead of answering questions by the deputy attorney general. Kise argued that Trump has a right to speak as a presidential candidate. “We are not here to hear what he has to say,” Engoron said. “We are here to hear him answer the questions. And most of the time he’s not.” Alina Habba, another Trump lawyer, insisted that the court was indeed here to hear what Trump had to say. “Sit down already!” the judge responded. “This is a very very unfair trial,” Trump interjected. If Trump were excused, the judge said he would allow a negative inference to be drawn from that. A negative inference would be very damaging in a jury trial, but it’s unclear how it will factor in the judge’s ruling.
‘Can You Control Your Client?’ (10:42 a.m.)
A sharp exchange erupted in the courtroom when the judge tried to rein in Trump’s attempts to steamroll past Wallace’s questions. Trump had responded to questions about his statement of financial condition by insisting that properties whose values he’s accused of inflating were actually undervalued and claiming he was justified in adding millions in value due to his brand. “I became president because of my brand,” Trump said. The judge warned Trump against editorializing and asked defense lawyer Christopher Kise, “Can you control your client?” Engoron suggested Kise take some time to explain the rules to Trump. “The former and soon-to-be chief executive of the United States understands the rules,” Kise said. “But he doesn’t abide by them,” the judge shot back.
Trump Slams ‘Crazy Trial,’ Judge Knocks ‘Speeches’ (10:24 a.m.)
Trump testified that banks didn’t care about the statements of financial condition on which James alleges he inflated his asset values. “They just weren’t a very important element in banks’ decision-making process. and we’ll explain that as this trial goes along, as this crazy trial goes along,” he said. The judge told Trump to “just answer the questions, no speeches.” Trump’s lawyer defended his responses, saying Wallace is asking “questions that call for narratives.”
Trump Takes the Stand (10:12 a.m.)
Trump began testifying under questioning by New York Deputy Attorney General Kevin Wallace. He started by confirming that he was head of the Trump Organization from May 1, 1981 to Jan. 19, 2017, just before he was inaugurated as president. Trump said he could have run his business while in office, asserting that George Washington did so, but decided it would be a conflict of interest. He quickly pivoted to attacking Wallace as being among “every Democratic district attorney, attorney general and US Attorney who were coming after me from fifteen sides, all different cases, all Trump haters, all cases that are not good. Weaponization.”
Trump Arrives in Court (9:54 a.m.)
Trump arrived in the courtroom in Lower Manhattan where he’s expected to take the stand shortly. James arrived earlier. Trump’s testimony follows that of his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, both executives at the Trump Organization who testified they played no role in creating their father’s annual statements of financial condition, saying they relied on accountants. Trump has said the statements were not meant to be taken very seriously and that banks were expected to do their own appraisals of his properties.
(A previous version of this story corrected the time for 10:42 a.m. entry.)
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