Donald Trump rages at 'political witch trial' in New York civil fraud case

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore on what is at stake for the former US president

Donald Trump hit out during his testimony at the civil fraud trial in which he is accused of exaggerating his net worth to help secure loans and business deals, calling it a "political witch hunt".

The former US president, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, gave testimony for several hours at the New York Supreme Court on Monday.

During the opening session, Mr Trump's lawyers were told to get control of their client, as the former president was scolded about the length and content of his answers.

At one point, Judge Arthur Engeron said: "We don't have time to waste. We have one day to do this."

Mr Trump's long-awaited testimony about property valuations and financial statements was punctuated by personal jabs at Judge Engeron - who he said was biased against him - and at the state attorney general, who he derided as a "political hack".

He proudly boasted of his real estate business - "I'm worth billions of dollars more than the financial statements" - and disputed claims that he had deceived banks and insurers.

Mr Trump used his testimony to hit out at New York Attorney General Letitia James - who brought the lawsuit against the 77-year-old - saying: "I think this is a political witch hunt and she should be ashamed of herself.”

"This is the opposite of fraud," he declared. Referring to Ms James, a Democrat, he said: "The fraud is her."

A courtroom sketch of former US president Donald Trump answering questions at the New York Supreme Court. Credit: AP

Speaking outside court, Ms James dismissed Mr Trump's comments, saying: "At the end of the day the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers, and numbers, my friends, don't lie."

Mr Trump sought to defend himself by downplaying the role he had in preparing and assessing his annual financial statements, which he is accused of inflating.

"All I did was authorise and tell people to give whatever is necessary for the accountants to do the statements," Mr Trump said.

The former US president, like his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr, also looked to absolve himself of any blame by claiming that disclaimers on his financial statements should have alerted people relying on the documents to carry out their own due diligence.

Donald Trump told reporters he was looking forward to testifying as he arrived at the New York Supreme Court

"Banks didn't find them very relevant, and they had a disclaimer clause - you would call it a worthless statement clause," he added.

When Mr Trump discussed why his financial statements listed his Trump Tower penthouse as three times its actual size, he said it was possible "we made a mistake".

Eric Trump told reporters last Friday that his father was "very fired up" to provide his own account.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are also listed within the lawsuit that has been brought by Ms James.

Her lawsuit accuses Donald Trump of exaggerating his personal wealth for years on financial statements that were given to banks and insurers to help secure loans and business deals.

The trial is one of a number of legal cases that Mr Trump is facing, including charges that he illegally hoarded classified documents after leaving the White House, and that he attempted to unfairly overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

Last month, the former president was fined for failing to remove a disparaging post on his campaign website about a court clerk involved in his civil fraud trial, after he was ordered to delete it weeks beforehand.

His lawyers had claimed at the time that the "very large machine" of his campaign to return to the White House was to blame as opposed to the 77-year-old himself.

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