Donald Trump appeared at a New York City courthouse in downtown Manhattan on 2 October for the first day of a trial stemming from a $250m civil fraud lawsuit brought by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Just after 9.30am ET, the former president – donning a dark blue suit and blue tie – made his way from his residence at Trump Tower to the state Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street
Upon arrival, Mr Trump gave a brief statement to new organisations in the narrow hallway outside of the courtroom on the third floor of the building.
He called the trial “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time” and maintained his innocence in the case.
Mr Trump, his adult sons and Trump Organization executives are accused of defrauding banks and insurers by overvaluing properties by billions of dollars, exaggerating the state of his wealth to fraudulently obtain favourable insurance deals, financing and other transactions.
New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron – who is overseeing the trial – has already determined Mr Trump is liable for fraud. Over the next two to three months, Mr Trump’s defence team will be arguing with prosecutors to determine how much Mr Trump exaggerated the truth.
In his brief statement, Mr Trump claimed his financial statements were “phenomenal” and said that “no bank was affected or hurt”.
It is the second time Mr Trump has appeared inside a Manhattan courtroom in recent months, after he was criminally charged in a case surrounding so-called hush-money payments to an adult film star in the leadup to the 2016 election in an alleged effort to quash compromising stories of his affairs.
Mr Trump has spent decades navigating legal threats that would reveal his alleged reputation as a fraud, but a brutal 35-page decision from Judge Engoron – if allowed to stand – could threaten to dismantle his business interests in the state.
The judge determined that no trial was necessary to determine that Mr Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, allowing a bench trial to move forward that will address other claims in Ms James’s lawsuit.
Both sides have offered up long lists of potential witnesses for the trial, including Mr Trump and his adult children. Mr Trump’s second eldest son, Eric Trump, also appeared in the courtroom on Monday.
Ms James entered the courtroom around 9.30am with her team after addressing reporters outside.
“For years, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system. We won the foundation of our case last week and proved that his purported net worth has long been rooted in incredible fraud. In this country, there are consequences for this type of persistent fraud, and we look forward to demonstrating the full extent of his fraud and illegality during trial,” she wrote in a statement on Monday morning.
“No matter how rich or powerful you are, there are not two sets of laws for people in this country. The rule of law must apply equally to everyone, and it is my responsibility to make sure that it does,” she added.
Monday morning’s trial marks the first of several trials the ex-president will be forced to juggle alongside his campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
The non-jury trial is expected to finish before late December.
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