How Donald Trump’s Fiery Clash With Judge Arthur Engoron Unfolded

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It was a performance that drew laughter from New York Attorney General Letitia James and anger from the judge overseeing the case, as those who were hoping for fiery testimony from Donald Trump at his New York fraud trial were not disappointed.

Trump arrived at the courthouse just before 10 a.m. on Monday and went straight to talk to the media. He was eager to denounce the trial before taking the witness stand.

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing. These are political operatives that I’m going to be dealing with right now,” Trump said. “It’s a very sad situation for our country.”

James also spoke to the media, telling them that Trump would “engage in name-calling, taunts and race-baiting.”

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers, and numbers, my friend, don’t lie,” she said.

Trump, his two eldest sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as The Trump Organization, are co-defendants in the $250 million civil fraud trial brought by James, who is accusing the former president of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain benefits such as better bank loans and reduced tax bills.

The former president has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing. Trump has repeatedly claimed the litigation was politically motivated.

Donald Trump in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial on November 6, 2023, in New York City. While giving evidence, Trump had heated exchanges with Judge Arthur Engoron and lawyers representing New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images

One of James’ courtroom attorneys, Kevin Wallace, first asked Trump about a trust he set up before he became president. When he lost the 2020 election, Trump took control of the trust again but then released control in July 2021. Asked why he had done so, Trump said he had to let go of it because of political pressure and was ready with a denunciation:

“You and every other Democrat district attorney, A.G., and U.S. attorney were coming at me from 15 different sides, all Democrats, all haters,” Trump said.

When Engoron noted that Trump was giving long answers that strayed from the topic, Trump’s chief attorney, Christopher Kise, stood and told the judge: “With this witness, it’s far more efficient to listen and take it all in.”

Wallace laughed at Kise’s response, but Engoron was not amused. His voice rose as he snapped at Kise: “No. I’m not here to hear what he has to say. I’m here to hear him answer questions. Sit down.”

Engoron then told Kise he had better rein in Trump’s speech making. “We got another speech. I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can,” Engoron said.

Trump later noted that The Trump Organizations’ financial statements included disclaimers. Engoron has already ruled that the disclaimers were “worthless,” something that Trump was keen to address.

“The disclaimer clause says if there’s a mistake, if there’s something, don’t rely on it,” Trump said, adding that the disclaimers “always hold up in court, except maybe this court.”

Trump also said that some properties may have been overvalued in 2014 to allow for rapid increases in their value. “If you carry that [2014 evaluations] forward to 2021, all of those valuations were low,” he insisted.

Trump criticized James while on the stand, prompting her to laugh at one of his comments, according to reporters who were in the courtroom. At the time, Trump was being asked about property evaluations for the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street.

Adam Klasfeld, a senior legal correspondent for news outlet The Messenger, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that after Trump claimed James didn’t “even know what 40 Wall Street is,” the attorney general was seen laughing in response.

“Trump, on NYAG Letitia James: ‘She doesn’t even know what 40 Wall Street is,'” Klasfeld posted. “NYAG is visibly cackling at the remark for a bit, then puts her head down to compose herself.”

James’ lawyers also challenged Trump on why one of his Scottish golf clubs is valued as if there were 2,500 new homes on it, when in reality there are none.

“At some point in my old age, I’ll go there and build the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen,” Trump retorted.

He finished his testimony just before 3:30 p.m., with no questions from his own attorneys. Had they asked any, that would have allowed additional questions from James’ lawyers.

Last month, Engoron ruled that Trump, his adult sons, their businesses, and executives committed fraud in their property evaluations. The court will decide on six other accusations, including falsifying business records, insurance fraud, and conspiracy claims. Engoron himself will rule on the charges, as Trump’s legal team did not opt for a jury trial.

Newsweek has Trump’s legal team for comment via email.