Trump takes the stand in civil trial over business fraud

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NEW YORK — With a scowl on his face, former President Donald Trump took the witness stand Monday morning to testify in a $250 million civil fraud trial in which he stands accused of fraudulently inflating his net worth to gain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

In a navy suit, royal blue tie and light blue shirt, Trump raised his right hand to be sworn in, then sat at the witness stand, his shoulders hunched.

He sat just a few feet from the judge, Justice Arthur Engoron, whom Trump has called “tyrannical and unhinged,” and the judge’s law clerk, who has been a long-running target of the ex-president, earning him a gag order. As the proceedings got underway Monday morning, Trump began answering questions from a lawyer for the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the case against Trump and called him to testify.

On his way into the courtroom, he told reporters, “These are political operatives that I am going to be dealing with right now.”

“It is a political warfare, as you would call it, or political lawfare, and I have a lot of names for it,” he said, “but it is usually something that takes place in third-world countries and banana republics.”

Lawyers for the attorney general’s office are expected to ask Trump primarily about his level of involvement with financial statements valuing his net worth and whether he directed the people creating those statements to inflate the figures.

He will likely face questions about the reporting structure of the Trump Organization and how that changed after he became president, as well as whether he intended for banks and insurers to rely on the allegedly fraudulent financial documents.

Before entering the courtroom, New York Attorney General Tish James told reporters: “I think it’s going to be an interesting day, but numbers and facts matter.”

Reporters began lining up outside the courthouse on Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m. in hopes of snagging one of the seats in the courtroom to observe Trump’s testimony the next morning.

Trump’s testimony comes as he is campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, and on Sunday, he used his upcoming turn on the witness stand as part of a fundraising effort, saying in a campaign email that “I am being forced to take the witness stand tomorrow in a SHAM trial in New York City where an extremely anti-Trump Attorney General is trying to impose the ‘corporate death penalty’ upon me and even my family.”

His testimony Monday was technically the second time Trump has taken the stand during the month-old trial. In late October, he testified for several minutes about out-of-court statements about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, which resulted in the judge issuing the second of two fines for violating the gag order.

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