New York, November 6 (IANS) Former US President Donald Trump is scheduled to testify in a Manhattan court stoutly defending and denying charges of tax fraud to avoid massive fines and his business enterprises from being shut down in the $250 million civil fraud trial brought by the District Attorney (DA), Letitia James.
Trump says he is defending himself against what he calls a "corporate death penalty" for his namesake real-estate company that could potentially result in $250 million in damages and close his business enterprises in the New York state for at least five years, media reports said.
All eyes are now on New York’s Manhattan district court, as Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump, his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., a couple of executives and the umbrella Trump Organization have orchestrated years of fraud by inflating their real estate assets to obtain better terms on loans and insurance premium.
After Trump's sons -- Eric and Donald Trump Jr -- testified last week, the ex-President takes the witness stand making an all-out effort to save his iconic company going bust in New York city.
Both the sons denied any knowledge of the financial matters of the company in their testimonies last week, despite being board members and holding VP-level positons.
The 2024 Republican frontrunner has described his fraud trial as a "witch hunt" by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Engoron, both of whom are elected Democrats.
Making public statements, Trump has sought to create public sympathy for himself, saying his financial statements are "phenomenal" and that his actual net worth is "substantially more" than what the statements indicated.
Here's what to expect as Monday's testimony unfolds, as per USA TODAY.
The former President’s motorcade arrived at the New York courthouse at around 9:25 a.m., 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Trump isnt’ the only one attacking the New York DA through his social media platforms. Letitia James, who sued him, took to X on Monday saying Trump has repeatedly and consistently lied about the value of his assets to fraudulently enrich himself and his family.
James said, “Donald Trump might lie, but the facts and the numbers don’t.”
James told reporters outside the courthouse that she expected Trump to engage in name-calling and race-baiting.
“I am confident he will engage in name-calling and taunts and race-baiting and call this a witch hunt,” James said, adding, “But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers. And numbers, my friends, don’t lie.”
Trump is likely to speak publicly before and after his testimony, and one can expect Trump to whip up sympathy from the public courts.
Trump has set aside time to speak with reporters before and after his court session, according to a schedule provided by his campaign team. Sometime after 4:30 p.m. (local time), Trump is scheduled to depart the courthouse for the airport and take a flight to his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump is trying to take the GOP centre stage with his testimony on Monday aligned with his political rally in the Miami area on Wednesday night, opposite the third debate among his Republican campaign rivals.
'A dark day for our country': Trump kicked off his testimony with an early start dubbing the trial as politically motivated and with a unbelievable charge that President Joe Biden was behind DA Letitia James. Factually, the New York attorney general began her investigation before Biden's election in 2020.
"A dark day for our country, witch hunt ," Trump said.
Engoron has fined Trump twice for violations of the gag order through comments about his clerk, Allison Greenfield. Engoron on Friday expanded the gag order to cover Trump's defence team.
Engoron has also rejected proposals for a televised hearing of Trump's testimony, disallowing video cameras to record the court proceedings, but has allowed photogrphers inside the court room.
Engoron’s decision is in contrast to a Georgia election racketeering case against Trump and 18 co-defendants. At Georgia, cameras streamed pretrial hearings and guilty pleas of several co-defendants in Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee's courtroom.
What is the Trump New York trial about?
In September, Engoron had ruled that Trump and other defendants in the case had fraudulently inflated the value of billions of dollars in assets, saying that certain entities tied to them will lose their New York business certificates -- a finding Trump called “the corporate death penalty".
The judge also imposed sanctions on Trump’s defence attorneys for repeatedly advancing "bogus arguments", such as the defence notion that square footage is subjective.
But Engoron’s September "bombshell" only addressed a portion of James’ 222-page legal complaint accusing Trump and others of persistent and repeated fraud.
The trial is addressing several allegations, including that Trump, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization executives falsified corporate financial statements and committed insurance fraud.
The testimony will also inform Engoron’s decision about what further punishment, if any, to impose.