Trump heads to NYC courthouse for high-stakes testimony

Former President Donald Trump teed up his testimony in a New York civil trial Monday by calling it a “dark day for our country” and leveling direct attacks on the judge who will decide whether the Trump Organization committed business fraud and must pay a price.

He also took aim at New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose lawsuit alleges Mr. Trump and his real estate business submitted fraudulent valuations of their properties to get favorable terms on loans and insurance.

“Got a really Biased, Nasty, Club controlled, but often overturned, Judge, a Racist, Evil, and Corrupt Attorney General, BUT A CASE THAT, ACCORDING TO ALMOST ALL LEGAL SCHOLARS, HAS ZERO MERIT. A dark day for our Country,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social, referring to Judge Arthur Engoron.

The former president says the civil case and multiple criminal indictments are part of a plot to thwart his 2024 presidential bid. He is the GOP front-runner by a wide margin and some polls show him virtually tied with President Biden in a hypothetical rematch.

While Ms. James, a Democrat, is leading the lawsuit, Mr. Trump said Monday that Mr. Biden is orchestrating all his legal woes through “agencies and surrogates, for purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”

Mr. Trump has been willing to lash out at Judge Engoron and his court clerk in the high-stakes case that could result in hefty penalties against the Trump family business or force them to divest trademark properties in New York.

The ex-president is sensitive to attacks on his wealth and namesake business, so his testimony could produce fireworks. Yet some pundits say the courtroom environment could constrict his free-wheeling personality.

Mr. Trump built his political brand by highlighting his rise as a wealthy real estate mogul. He said he understood money, power and the machinery of the world better than any of his rivals. He even played a rich boss on television — NBC’s “The Apprentice” offered him a broad audience for years before his 2016 campaign.

His court appearance drew a large crowd to the Manhattan courthouse on Monday. Some reporters waited overnight for a spot in the room.

Before the trial, Judge Engoron ruled that Mr. Trump and his business committed some fraud, handing Ms. James an early victory in the case. The trial is considering other claims and possible penalties.

Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, testified last week they relied on accountants and legal advisers to produce the financial statements at the heart of the case.

Ms. James says members of the Trump family were aware of the alleged fraud because they provided the information and figures that experts relied on to draft the financial forms.

Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

Ms. Trump is not a defendant in the suit but Judge Arthur Engoron ruled her testimony could be relevant due to past business in New York.

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