Updated Nov 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump rebuked by judge during testimony in N.Y. civil fraud trial

Former U.S. President Donald Trump (C) sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on November 06, 2023 in New York City.

Former President Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Nov. 6 in New York City. Photo: Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images

Former President Trump on Monday sparred with the judge overseeing his New York civil fraud trial, and acknowledged giving input on the financial statements at the center of the $250 million lawsuit.

Why it matters: Monday's hearing marked the first time the former president is testifying on the allegations in one of his ongoing legal cases.

  • Trump briefly took the stand last month to answer questions about a possible violation of his gag order, but he was not asked about the fraud charges.

Driving the news: Trump's off-topic testimony drew early rebukes from Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the trial. The judge asked Trump's attorneys to make sure their client stayed on track.

  • "This is not a political rally … maybe you need to have a talk with him right now," Engoron said, per NBC News.
  • Engoron grew heated after he said that Trump was not answering his questions.
  • "That was a simple yes-no answer," the judge said to one of the former president's lawyers. "I beseech you to control him."

Zoom in: Trump said Monday that he would sometimes give input on the Trump Organization's financial statements, which are at the center of the case.

  • "I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions," he said, per the New York Times.
  • The former president also testified that his financial statements would always hold up in court, "except maybe in this court." He also referenced disclaimers on the financial statements.

The big picture: New York Attorney General Letitia James filed the $250 million lawsuit last year accusing the former president, his associates and the Trump Organization of committing financial fraud over the course of a decade.

  • He's the third in his family to testify in the trial. Two of his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, gave testimony last week.
  • The former president has repeatedly turned up at the trial. In his appearances at the Manhattan courthouse, he's criticized both James and Engoron.
  • Engoron put Trump under a gag order in the case after he made a post on his Truth Social account attacking the judge's law clerk. Trump has been fined twice by Engoron for violating the gag order.

State of play: Trump said after his nearly four hours on the stand that he thought his testimony "went very well."

  • "I think you saw what I had to say today and it was very conclusive," he said, adding that he thinks the case "should be immediately dismissed."

James dismissed Trump's attacks from the stand as "distractions."

  • "The documentary evidence demonstrated that, in fact, he falsely inflated his assets to basically enrich himself and his family," James said, per CNN.
  • She added that Trump "rambled, he hurled insults, but we expected that."

Flashback: Trump twice faced depositions in the New York fraud trial, and one of those times he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Zoom in: Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. both shifted blame during their testimonies to outside accountants, saying they are responsible for any mistakes in company financial statements.

  • "The accountants worked on it, that's what we pay them for," Donald Trump Jr. said last week.

What's next: Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is expected to testify on Wednesday. The attorney general's office then plans to rest its case after her testimony.

  • Trump's attorney Chris Kise said Monday that he believes the defense's schedule would have the trial end by Dec. 15, per the Times.

Go deeper: Trump's unusual New York campout

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new developments.

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