Trump assails prosecutor, judge at business fraud trial

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, with lawyers Christopher Kise, left, and Alina Habba, attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York, Jan 11, 2024. [Reuters]

Former U.S President Donald Trump assailed the prosecutor and judge during closing arguments Thursday at his civil business fraud trial in New York, contending the state attorney general and jurist were attempting to derail his 2024 presidential campaign to win back the White House.

State court Judge Arthur Engoron on Wednesday had barred Trump from giving his own closing argument in the case against him and his Trump Organization real estate conglomerate. The state has alleged that he and company officials routinely inflated the value of their company’s properties to get favorable rates on new bank loans.

But Engoron relented and allowed Trump to speak after his lawyer finished a formal rebuttal of the state’s case asking that Trump and the company be fined $370 million and barred from continuing to do business in New York, Trump’s home base of operations before winning the 2016 presidential election.

Trump almost immediately launched into an angry attack against New York state Attorney General Letitia James.

"They want to make sure I never win again,” he said. “The [attorney general] hates Trump ... and if I can't talk about that, it's a disservice."

Engoron attempted to interrupt Trump with a warning to wrap up his statement. Trump responded, "You have your own agenda. You can't listen for more than one minute. This is a fraud on me. What's happened here, sir, is a fraud on me."

Trump later accused Engoron of not listening to him.

"I know this is boring to you," he said.

Engoron told Trump's lawyer to "control your client.”

After another minute, Engoron cut off Trump and recessed the arguments for a lunch break.

Engoron heard arguments in the business fraud case hours after authorities responded to a bomb threat at the judge's house Thursday morning. No explosives were found.

Throughout weeks of testimony in the case, Trump has often disparaged Engoron, accusing him in a social media post Wednesday night of working closely with the New York attorney general "to screw me." The judge fined Trump $15,000 during the course of the case for ignoring a gag order prohibiting him from attacking court personnel involved in the case.

The accusations against Trump are a civil matter, with no possibility of imprisonment. Engoron has ruled that Trump committed fraud on some accusations brought by the state but has yet to rule on others. Engoron has promised to issue a decision by the end of January.

As he runs for the presidency again and polls show he holds a commanding lead for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump also faces an unprecedented 91 charges across four criminal indictments.

He appeared on Tuesday in a federal appellate court in Washington to listen as one of his lawyers argued that he was immune from prosecution in a case brought by special counsel Jack Smith alleging that Trump illegally attempted to upend his 2020 reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump’s lawyer argued that the former president’s actions in contesting the election result shielded him from prosecution because he undertook them as part of his official presidential duties to ensure a fair election, not merely as a candidate trying to stay in office for another four years.