Former President Donald Trump took the witness stand on Friday in a civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, but his testimony may have done more harm than good, according to legal experts.
The case accuses Trump and his family of inflating their wealth to obtain favorable loans and insurance policies. James is seeking to recover millions of dollars in taxes and penalties from the Trump Organization and its executives.
Trump’s testimony was rambling, defiant, and often incoherent, as he contradicted himself, evaded questions, and attacked the judge and the prosecutors. He also admitted to more discrepancies and misrepresentations in his financial statements, which could amount to fraud.
“He’s admitting to more fraud. He’s admitting to more discrepancies. He’s admitting to more misrepresentations. He’s verging on a confession,” said Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, who testified against him in the case.
“He’s not answering the questions. He’s just giving a word salad on the stand. He’s not being responsive. He’s being evasive. He’s being argumentative. He’s being combative,” said Kate Bolduan, a CNN anchor who covered the testimony live.
“He’s trying to filibuster his way through this deposition. He’s trying to run out the clock. He’s trying to avoid answering the questions that are being put to him,” said Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
The judge, Justice Arthur Engoron, threatened to draw negative inferences from Trump’s testimony and expressed frustration with his lawyers, who failed to control their client and even tried to challenge the impartiality of a court staffer.
“He’s not a credible witness. He’s not a reliable witness. He’s not a truthful witness. He’s a witness who has a history of lying under oath,” said Jennifer Rodgers, another CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Trump also lashed out at the media, the Democrats, and the Biden administration, blaming them for his political and legal woes. He repeated his baseless claims of election fraud and vowed to run again in 2024.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re trying to trap me. You’re trying to make me look bad. You’re trying to make me look like a liar. You’re trying to make me look like a crook,” Trump said at one point during his testimony.
The case is expected to resume next week, with more witnesses and evidence to be presented by the prosecution. Trump may face more questions and challenges as he tries to defend himself from the allegations of fraud.
– “Verging on a confession”: Legal experts say Trump “admitting to more fraud” in word-salad testimony, Yahoo News, November 6, 2023
– Trump’s ‘word salad’ on the witness stand stuns CNN’s Kate Bolduan, Raw Story, November 6, 2023
– ‘Word Salad On the Stand’: CNN Anchor Reports Trump’s Testimony Left the Prosecution ‘Visibly Surprised’, MSN, November 6, 2023
– ‘Endless word salad’: Trump critics pile on his ‘desperately deranged’ speech, Raw Story, November 5, 2023