Well, it finally happened! Donald Trump had to testify for himself in a court of law. And the result was… predictably Trumpian.
There’s a saying we learned from lawyers: If the facts are on your side, bang the facts. If the law is on your side, bang the law. If neither is on your side, bang the table!
And that’s just what Trump did for a full day of testimony, just making speeches like he was at a rally.
He evaded and delayed all day, giving long-winded speeches in response to simple questions, often unrelated. Many times he attacked New York Attorney General Letitia James for bringing the $250 million fraud suit and Judge Arthur Engoron for thus far ruling against him. It was all the old hits: everyone is biased, it’s a witch hunt, etc etc.
Hilariously, he went full angry teen influencer at one point, blasting attorney Kevin Wallace, who was questioning him, as well as James and Engoron, saying:
“You and every other Democrat… coming after me from 15 different sides.”
He then called them, and we cannot make this up, “all haters.” He also said Engoron will “rule against me because he will always rule against me.” IT’S SO UNFAIR! LOLz!
Oh, and in one hysterical response to a question about his financial statements in 2021, Trump hit back:
“I was so busy in the White House, focusing on Russia and China and keeping our country safe.”
Wallace then reminded the witness that he was not President of the United States in 2021. Amazing.
The judge tried to rein him in, ordering him over and over to answer the questions. At one point, he showed his frustration by reminding the attorneys they only have one day scheduled with him as a witness. In the end, Engoron told Trump’s attorneys that he’d only have himself to blame if he didn’t answer questions. You can’t avoid testifying in a civil trial just by filibustering — the judge is within his rights to make what’s called a “negative inference” about the testimony. That means, if the defendant won’t answer the questions being asked, the court will be forced to determine he doesn’t want to answer — and assume the worst about why.
Just another thing Trump will say is unfair — because he’s not interested in the actual rule of law, just in getting enough power to evade it.
We should say, there was a little testimony mixed in with the rhetoric. Trump did acknowledge the valuation of his own apartment in Trump tower was way too high. That’s one he can’t fudge or claim can be interpreted differently — it was literally valued based on a square footage number THREE TIMES the size of the actual place. He agreed it was too high but passed the blame to others, saying they must have gotten confused and added in the roof, which he also had access to, as well as the… elevator shafts?
In his defense, he also noted some of the things he was being asked about were “past statute of limitations.” He also mentioned multiple times that he always included a legal disclaimer in his property valuations saying the reader shouldn’t take their word for it and do their own research, something he believed would have protected him from any of the info he gave being, well, total BS. He said:
“There’s a disclaimer clause, so if there is a mistake … you don’t get sued by the attorney general’s office.”
(This is a defense Judge Engoron already ruled on in his pre-trial judgments, btw. He said the clauses in no way say to “ignore” or “disregard” the financial statements and instead say they are accurate and “current.”)
Trump then downplayed the financial statements, saying banks don’t even really look at them. However, when asked if he had intended the banks to rely on the statements he gave, he said he had. He didn’t seem to realize he was undercutting his own testimony with some of his answers — as well as potentially revealing fraudulent intent!
What will come of all this? We’ll have to wait and see! Again, Engoron has already ruled there was fraud, based solely on what’s on paper. The only question is about the penalty now. Will any amount, even the full $250 million be enough to hurt Trump? Or can he, like Eric Trump once brazenly stated, get “all the funding we need out of Russia”?
[Image via Lucy Welcher/TikTok/MEGA/WENN.]