NEW YORK – Former president Donald Trump is expected to testify Monday in the New York civil case threatening to upend his real estate empire and deal him a damaging financial blow as he seeks to retake the White House next year.
The 77-year-old Republican is due to take the stand at 10:00 am (1500 GMT), sitting next to Arthur Engoron, the judge overseeing the case whom Trump has repeatedly derided as “unhinged” and a “Trump-hating radical left, Democrat operative.”
Engoron has responded by slapping Trump with two fines — one for $5,000, another for $10,000 — when he ruled the onetime reality television star had violated a partial gag order imposed after he bashed the judge’s clerk on social media.
Beneath the Manhattan courtroom’s fading mural acclaiming the 1683 adoption of a “Charter of Liberties,” Trump is to be sworn in and questioned, as did his two eldest sons Don Jr. and Eric the week before.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused the Trump Organization of inflating the value of its assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.
Despite his pugnacious tendencies in public, Trump on the stand is likely to adopt a conservative line of defense similar to his sons last week — that accountants were the ones ultimately responsible for verifying the accuracy of the company’s financial statements.
He has already given testimony twice in connection with this case, both times behind closed doors.
In excerpts from the first deposition, he called the proceedings “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” and called the Democratic attorney general an “out of control prosecutor.”
During the second deposition he argued the whole case was “crazy” because “banks were all paid” and “made a lot of money” off his business.
– First of several trials –
Trump and his sons do not risk going to jail, but face up to $250 million in penalties and potential removal from the management of the family company.
Even before opening arguments, Engoron ruled that James’ office had already shown “conclusive evidence” that Trump had overstated his net worth on financial documents by between $812 million and $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.
As a result, the judge ordered the liquidation of the companies managing the assets in question, such as the Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street skyscrapers in Manhattan and the opulent Seven Springs private estate in the suburbs.
That order is on hold pending appeal, but its potentially sweeping consequences highlight the high stakes for the former president.
The tycoon’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who left the Trump Organization in 2017 to become a White House advisor to her father, is not a codefendant in the case but has also been ordered to testify, possibly as soon as Wednesday.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has shown up sporadically since the New York trial began a month ago, using his appearances to portray himself as the victim of what he claims is a Democratic plot to derail his White House campaign.
The civil fraud trial is one of several legal battles Trump faces as he seeks to recapture the presidency.
In March, Trump — who was impeached twice while in the White House, though never convicted — is expected in federal court in Washington for the start of his trial on charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden.
Thus far, the media circus surrounding his legal woes has not dented his popularity in the polls.