Former President Donald Trump faced a tense day in court on Wednesday as his civil fraud trial in New York City was interrupted by heated exchanges between lawyers and witnesses.
According to a report by UPI on Wednesday, October 18, 2023, Trump, who appeared voluntarily at the trial, was accused of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain loans and tax benefits. He denied any wrongdoing and claimed the case was politically motivated.
The trial, which began on Monday, is brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is seeking a fine of $250 million from Trump, his two adult sons, and the Trump Organization.
James alleges that Trump and his business committed ongoing fraud by exaggerating the value of their properties and assets for decades. She also claims that Trump used fraudulent appraisals to secure loans from banks and reduce his tax liability.
One of the key witnesses for the prosecution was Doug Larson, a former Trump Organization appraiser who testified that he was instructed by Trump’s lawyers to inflate the value of Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower by as much as $207 million.
Larson said he felt uncomfortable with the request and tried to resist, but eventually complied.
However, during cross-examination, a lawyer for Trump’s defense shouted at Larson and accused him of lying.
“You lied, yesterday, didn’t you?” the lawyer asked, referring to Larson’s testimony on Tuesday. The question sparked a heated argument between the lawyers, with James objecting to what she called “exhortations” from the defense table.
The judge, Arthur Engoron, intervened and urged everyone to calm down as the trial was briefly halted and Larson was escorted out. Engoron also instructed people in the courtroom to keep quiet following Trump’s display of emotion.
Trump, who was overheard whispering angrily to his lawyers and hitting the defense table with both hands, did not speak to reporters as he left the court.
The trial is expected to last for several weeks and will be decided by Engoron alone, as neither side requested a jury trial.
Engoron has already ruled in September that Trump and his business did commit fraud, granting a summary motion by James. However, he said he still needed to hear evidence on the extent of the fraud and the appropriate penalties.
Trump has cast this trial, as well as other lawsuits and indictments against him, as an attempt to hurt his bid to return to the White House in 2024.
He has also accused James of being corrupt and coordinating with the US Department of Justice, which is investigating him for possible election interference. However, Engoron has dismissed these claims as baseless and irrelevant.