Politics

‘I Am An Innocent Man’

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


Former President Donald Trump slammed the judge presiding over his civil business fraud trial during closing arguments on Thursday, even after the judge refused to allow the 45th president to deliver any remarks.

Judge Arthur Engoron informed one of Trump’s attorneys that Trump will not be speaking in court because he has not heard from Trump’s team “by the third extended deadline (noon today), I assume that Mr. Trump will not agree to the reasonable, lawful limits that 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.”

The Associated Press reports that Trump nevertheless spoke out during closing arguments, delivering a six-minute speech in which he attacked Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James. After attorney Christopher Kise asked the judge again whether Trump could speak, Trump allegedly slammed the court. Just as Trump was about to start speaking, Engoron asked if they would follow the detailed rules that Trump had earlier proposed.

“This is a fraud on me. What’s happened here, sir, is a fraud on me,” Trump said. He later accused the judge of not listening to him before Engoron told Trump’s lawyers to “control your client.” He then gave the former president a minute to speak before adjourning for lunch.

“We have a situation where I am an innocent man,” the former president added. “I’m being persecuted by someone running for office, and I think you have to go outside the bounds.”

The civil fraud trial of Trump concluded with the closing arguments on Thursday.

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Judge Arthur Engoron, presiding over the bench trial in the absence of a jury, will render the final decision in the case. He expressed hope to render a decision by January 31, but cautioned that this is not a “promise” or “guarantee.”

Attorney General Letitia James has requested that Engoron compel Trump to pay an almost $370 million fine for misrepresenting his net worth on material financial statements to obtain tax and insurance benefits.

Additionally, the state has petitioned the judge to permanently bar the former president from the New York real estate industry.

Earlier this week, Trump raged at Engoron in a series of posts on his Truth Social platform after his trial wrapped up and he awaited a ruling on whether he would be held financially liable for defrauding the state.

Engoron has already found Trump liable for overvaluing his business and personal properties to get more favorable bank loans and insurance rates.

Now, Engoron must decide whether to grant New York Attorney General Letitia James’ request that Trump be fined as much as $370 million and permanently barred from doing business in the state, up from a pretrial figure of $250 million.

Trump, along with other defendants such as his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, vehemently denies any wrongdoing. The former president, who is the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, consistently characterizes the case as a politically motivated witch hunt orchestrated by James and other Democrats.

He contends that the legal challenges are intended to hinder his prospects of reclaiming the White House. Trump is also facing four other criminal cases.

He wrote in all caps:

IF JUDGE ENGORON IS ALLOWED TO DISREGARD THE COMPLETE APPELLATE DIVISION VICTORY THAT WE HAD IN JUNE, THEN THE RULE OF LAW IN NEW YORK STATE, AND INDEED OUR COUNTRY, WILL NEVER RECOVER. THE JUDGE HAS SO DISRESPECTED THE COURT OF APPEALS, IN THAT HE CONSIDERS THIS BIGGEST OF ALL LEGAL EVENTS TO HAVE NEVER HAPPENED, THAT NEW YORK STATE, AND OUR NATION AS A WHOLE, CANNOT ALLOW THIS TERRIBLE WRONGDOING TO TAKE PLACE. THIS IS LAWLESSNESS BY A JUDGE THE LIKES OF WHICH OUR COUNTRY HAS NEVER SEEN BEFORE. A VICTORY IS A VICTORY! LET IT BE. FIGHT VIOLENCE ON N.Y. STREETS, AND STOP THE MASS EXODUS OF OUR PEOPLE, OUR BUSINESSES, & OUR WEALTH OUT OF OUR ONCE GREAT STATE, & INTO OTHER, FAR MORE HOSPITABLE ONES. MAKE NEW YORK STATE GREAT AGAIN!

Newsweek added: “Trump has said his financial statements actually underestimated the value of his properties, and that any overestimations were mistakes that made little difference to the overall picture of his wealth. He argued that disclaimers on the statements insulated him from liability for discrepancies or misstatements.”

A leading legal expert cautioned the judge presiding over Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial in Manhattan, warning that his demeanor with the former president in court could come back to haunt him.

Attorney Michael Conway, who is a former House Judiciary Committee counsel, chided Judge Arthur Engoron over his language and behavior, citing in a column for MSNBC the trial of the so-called “Chicago 7,” as he reminded the judge “that the defendants in the notorious case went out of their way to antagonize Judge Julius Hoffman, which seems to be Donald Trump’s strategy in a case where Engoron has already found evidence of fraud.”

Conway further highlighted that during witness testimony, Engoron often clashed with both Trump’s legal team and the former president himself. Additionally, Conway mentioned that the use of profanity by Engoron is likely to become a focal point in any future appeal.

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