In a recent civil fraud trial, the judicial patience with former President Donald Trump was tested.
In a $250 million fraud case, former President Donald Trump's testimony was marked by numerous reprimands from the judge for his evasion of straightforward questions.
Presided over by Justice Arthur Engoron in the Manhattan Supreme Court, the case scrutinizes Trump's business practices over a decade. The lawsuit accuses Trump of exaggerating the worth of his assets to secure favorable loans and insurance premiums from 2011 to 2021. When asked about its veracity, Trump's reply was noncommittal: "I hope so."
As the hearing began on November 7, 2023, Trump's demeanor quickly became a focal point. His extensive responses to simple inquiries resulted in repeated warnings from Justice Engoron, who sought direct answers. This tug-of-war played out for the initial hour of Trump's testimony, showcasing a tension-filled courtroom.
The judge's dissatisfaction was clear as he addressed Trump's manner of answering, pointing out that the courtroom is not a venue for political posturing. Justice Engoron remarked, "This is not a political rally," emphasizing his expectation of succinct answers during the proceedings.
Trump's claims that the judge was perpetually biased against him added another layer to the strained proceedings. Such accusations do little to alleviate the escalating courtroom drama.
Trump's valuation of his 40 Wall Street property came under particular scrutiny. He argued that the $550 million appraisal in 2014 was far less than its true worth, stating, "That building, you just look at it, and you say it’s worth a lot more than $550 million." His belief in the property's greater value, however, was not substantiated with direct evidence during his testimony.
In response to Trump's persistent digressions, Justice Engoron's warnings escalated to a threat of contempt. The judge expressed his duty to keep the trial on track, reminding Trump to limit his answers without the elaboration that had characterized his earlier responses.
Justice Engoron's warning was stark: give direct answers or face the consequences of a contempt charge. The exchange exemplified the day's contentious atmosphere, underscoring the gravity with which the court viewed the need for succinct testimony.
Quoting Justice Engoron, "I’m elected to move things along faster. Please answer your questions, no speeches," this statement reflected the court's exasperation with the prolonged answers. Such exchanges indicate the delicate balance the judiciary must maintain between patience and assertiveness in high-profile cases.
The judge's insistence on straightforward responses resonated throughout the courtroom. This emphasis on judicial efficiency reflects an effort to cut through the theatrics that can often accompany high-profile testimony.
Justice Engoron, in his remarks, encapsulated the day's challenges, as he had to interject to steer the testimony back to relevance repeatedly. "We got another speech," he commented, illustrating the frequent divergence from direct questioning.
Former President Trump's courtroom behavior has certainly placed him at odds with Justice Engoron. With the judge's patience waning, the day's proceedings were far from smooth. Here is what Justice Engoron stated, reflecting his resolve to avoid political grandstanding in his courtroom:
"You can attack me or do whatever you want, but just answer the questions. I’m elected to move things along faster. Please answer your questions, no speeches.”
Throughout the hearing, Trump’s responses prompted the judge to remind him repeatedly that the court required straightforward answers and not lengthy explanations or speeches.