‘The Donald Trump show is over,’ AG says after ex-president leaves New York fraud trial
Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in the courtroom with his lawyers for his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 3, 2023.
Seth Wenig | Getty Images
New York Attorney General Letitia James declared that “the Donald Trump show is over” after the former president left his $250 million civil business fraud trial in the middle of proceedings Wednesday.
“I will not be bullied,” James said at Manhattan Supreme Court. She accused Trump engaging in a “political stunt,” and a “fundraising stop” by attending the trial for two-and-a-half days.
James, who is Black, also condemned Trump for making “comments that unfortunately fomented violence, or comments that I would describe as race baiting.”
Trump earlier Wednesday called James a “political animal.”
He also claimed her lawsuit against him was designed to hurt his chances of winning the 2024 presidential election.
“Mr. Trump’s comments were offensive. They were baseless,” James told reporters after Trump had left the building. “They were void of any facts and or any evidence.”
“This case was brought simply because it was a case where individuals have engaged in a pattern and practice of fraud,” James said, “and I will not sit idly by and allow anyone to subvert the law.”
“So Mr. Trump is no longer here,” James said. “The Donald Trump show is over. This was nothing more than a political stunt.”
Trump, who is seeking the 2024 GOP nomination, flew out of New York after leaving court, where he griped he was “stuck here.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James arrives at a Manhattan courthouse trial in a civil fraud case brought by her against Former U.S. President Donald Trump, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others in New York City, U.S., October 4, 2023.
Mike Segar | Reuters
“I’d rather be right now in Iowa, I’d rather be in New Hampshire or South Carolina or Ohio or a lot of other places, but I’m stuck here because I have a corrupt attorney general,” the Queens native said, before hopping into his motorcade.
Trump was not required to attend the trial, which began Monday.
But he told reporters he showed up for three days of it to show “how corrupt it is.”
“Our whole system is corrupt,” said Trump, who claimed the judge in the case is “run by the Democrats” and “already knows what he’s going to do.”
Trump’s son Eric remained in the courtroom until the trial adjourned Wednesday afternoon. Both Eric and his brother Donald Trump Jr., who jointly run the Trump Organization, are co-defendants in the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Trump was slapped with a limited gag order for criticizing the judge’s law clerk.
The trial resumed Wednesday morning with the continuation of cross-examination of Trump’s former accountant Donald Bender.
Trump’s attorneys grilled Bender about his involvement in preparing financial statements for the Trump Organization.
Bender previously testified that he compiled the statements using information provided by Trump and his company.
Those statements are at the heart of James’ lawsuit.
The suit accuses Trump, his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and top executives of misstating the true values of real estate properties in order to obtain better loan and insurance terms, and tax advantages.
In addition to seeking $250 million in damages, James wants the court to permanently bar Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from serving as officers of any New York business.
Bender, a former partner at Mazars USA, is the first witness called in the case, which is expected to last until late December.
Also Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers filed an appeal of a pre-trial ruling by Judge Arthur Engoron that found Trump and other defendants liable for fraud, the top claim in the lawsuit. Engoron in that ruling yanked the business licenses of various Trump corporate entities and ordered their dissolution.
The trial is dealing with the six remaining claims in the suit: falsifying business records, conspiracy to falsify business records, issuing false financial statements, conspiracy to falsify false financial statements, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Justice Arthur Engoron speaks during the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump for Trump’s civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 03, 2023 in New York City.
Shannon Stapleton | Getty Images
Before the trial resumed Wednesday, Trump outside the courtroom again called the case a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace,” and claimed James sued solely for political purposes.
Trump also called James, who is Black, a “political animal.”
James is a Democrat. Trump is currently the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
But Trump did not make any comment about Engoron’s law clerk, whom he had attacked Tuesday in statements to reporters and in a social media post. The clerk sits with Engoron during the trial and sometimes speaks with lawyers during the proceedings.
Trump’s post on Truth Social about her included her full name and a photo from her Instagram account of her posing with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Trump accused the clerk of being “Schumer’s girlfriend” and “running this case against me.”
An angry Engoron later Tuesday called the attack on his staffer unacceptable.
The judge ordered Trump to delete the Truth Social, and barred Trump and others in the case from talking about his aides publicly.
“Consider this a gag order on all parties with respect to posting or publicly speaking about any member of my staff,” Engoron said.
The trial is being conducted without a jury, meaning Engoron alone will deliver verdicts.
Trump on Wednesday reiterated claims that the New York state statute at issue in the case strips him of his right to a jury trial.
MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin said Trump could have asked for a jury trial, but that he likely would have been denied that request.