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Donald Trump takes the stand in New York civil case alleging financial fraud

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks during a break in his civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court, Oct. 25, 2023, in New York.
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks during a break in his civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court, Oct. 25, 2023, in New York. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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Trump told reporters outside the court "it is a very sad situation for our country,” and called his critics thugs.

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Former US President Donald Trump began testifying in his civil fraud trial on Monday, producing a spectacle of a former president and the leading Republican presidential candidate defending himself against allegations that he dramatically inflated his net worth.

Trump's turn on the witness stand, in a case that cuts to the heart of the business brand he spent decades crafting, amounts to a remarkable convergence of his legal troubles and his political ventures.

The testimony gives him the opportunity to try to use the witness stand as a campaign platform as he eyes a return to the White House while facing multiple criminal indictments, but its under-oath format, before a judge who has already fined him for incendiary comments outside of court, creates clear peril for a businessman and candidate famous for a freewheeling rhetorical display.

“It’s going to be a stunning moment. This is dramatic enough if he was simply an ex-president facing these charges. But the fact that he is the overwhelming favorite to run the GOP, it makes this a staggering Monday,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Trump arrived in court soon before 09:30 on Monday morning, posting social media broadsides earlier in the morning against the judge presiding over the case and the state attorney general's office that brought the lawsuit.

“It is a very sad situation for our country,” he told reporters outside court, calling his critics thugs.

The courtroom has already become a familiar destination for Trump. He has spent hours over the last month voluntarily seated at the defense table, observing the proceedings. 

Trump once took the stand - unexpectedly and briefly - after he was accused of violating a partial gag order. Trump denied violating the rules, but Judge Arthur Engoron disagreed and fined him anyway.

What issues could come up in court?

Among the topics likely to be covered: Trump’s role in his company's decision making, in its valuing of his properties, and in preparing his annual financial statements. Trump is likely to be asked about loans and other deals that were made using the statements and what intent, if any, he had in portraying his wealth to banks and insurers the way the documents did.

Trump is also likely to be asked about how he views and values his brand – and the economic impact of his fame and time as president - and may be asked to explain claims that his financial statements actually undervalued his wealth.

Trump has argued that disclaimers on his financial statements should have alerted people relying on the documents to do their own homework and verify the numbers themselves – an answer that he’s likely to repeat on the witness stand. Trump has said the disclaimer absolved him of wrongdoing.

Eric Trump, the former president's middle son, who testified in the case last week, said his father was eager for his appearance on the stand.

“I know he’s very fired up to be here. And he thinks that this is one of the most incredible injustices that he’s ever seen. And it truly is,” the younger Trump told reporters Friday, insisting his family was winning even though the judge has already ruled mostly against them.

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