GOP frontrunner Donald Trump disregarded restrictions imposed by the judge in his New York civil fraud trial. He addressed the court during closing arguments, raging against the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, and the judge for several minutes. Trump and his co-defendants are accused of insurance fraud and falsification of business records, claims he denies and describes as politically motivated.
Keep comments relevant
Judge Arthur Engoron told Trump’s attorneys the day before closing arguments that the former president would only be allowed to speak if his comments were limited to “relevant, material facts that are in evidence, and application of the relevant law to those facts.” Trump’s legal team did not agree.
Engoron had extended his deadline for a response to restrictions and wrote on January 10 that Trump would not be allowed to speak. “Not having heard from you by the third extended deadline (noon today), I assume that Mr. Trump will not agree to the reasonable, lawful limits I have imposed as a precondition to giving a closing statement above and beyond those given by his attorneys, and that, therefore, he will not be speaking in court tomorrow,” he wrote.
Trump ignores restrictions
Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, raised the issue again in the court the next day, and Trump then began speaking after Engoron asked him if he would abide by the limits. The judge allowed him to continue.
Denies all charges
Seated at the defense table, the former president railed against New York Attorney General Letitia James and defended his organization’s business practices, arguing he did “nothing wrong” and New York State “should pay me for what we had to go through.”
Trump’s comments came after his attorneys made their closing arguments urging Engoron to reject the state’s case. James’s office seeks $370 million for the state, a lifetime ban on Trump working in New York real estate, and five-year bans for his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric.
Judge taking his time
Judge Engoron has said that he won’t issue an immediate ruling and instead plans to take a few weeks before making his decision on the outstanding issues in the case.
Trump criticizes case
Disregarding the judge’s request to limit his comments to the facts of the case, Trump said, “Well, I think, your honor, that this case goes outside just the facts. The financial statements were perfect; the banks got back their money and are happy as can be.”
Attacks Attorney General
“When you say don’t go outside of these things, we have a situation where I’m an innocent man; I’ve been persecuted by someone running for office, and I think you have to go outside the bounds,” Trump said, referring to Attorney General James.
Trump seeks damages
He then accused James of misusing a statute designed to target consumer fraud. “This is a fraud on me. What’s happened here, sir, is a fraud on me,” Trump said, adding that New York State should pay him damages as punishment for pursuing the case.
Accuses the judge of bias
The former president directed his ire toward the judge, telling Engoron, “You have your own agenda; you can’t listen for more than one minute; this has been a persecution,” who interrupted and told Kise to “control your client.”
Legal team calls out Cohen
Trump’s outburst came after three hours of closing arguments by his defense attorneys. Kise, in his presentation, argued that the state failed to rebut the testimony of the defense’s experts and cast doubt on a key state witness, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Standard operating procedure
James’s lawyers argued in their closing arguments that fraud had been central to the operations of the Trump Organization for years. Kevin Wallace, an attorney in James’s office, said the former president and his company had lied about his wealth and the values of his properties, exposing lenders to more risk than they bargained for.
The trial, which began on October 2, revolves around accounting details and days of dry testimony interrupted by heated courtroom outbursts and confrontations. Trump was twice fined for violating a gag order put in place after the former president published a derogatory social media post about Judge Engoron’s law clerk.
Charges laid out
James’s office accused Trump, his adult sons, their organization, and two executives of a yearslong scheme to obtain undeserved good terms on bank and insurance deals by using inflated valuations.
Democrat-led witch hunt
The judge found the defendants liable for fraud in a September pretrial ruling. Much of the ruling was paused during the trial, which continued the accusations of conspiracy, falsification of business records, and insurance fraud. Trump has denied the allegations, calling them political retribution by Democrats.