Former President Trump went on offense during a contentious day of testimony in a New York civil fraud trial, lashing out repeatedly at the judge and prosecutors in the case and bolstering his political operation’s claims about the trial.
While the former president’s lengthy rants against the prosecutors and judge handling the case may not benefit him legally, Trump’s combative testimony dominated cable news and further fueled the former president’s preferred narrative that the case against him and his business is politically motivated.
Trump’s testimony was a focal point of coverage on cable news throughout the day. Even CNN, which has at times avoided airing his commentary because it often contains misinformation, broadcast Trump’s comments as he departed the courtroom Monday.
“We’re taking days and days, and weeks and weeks, and it goes on, and then you look at the outside world and what’s happening,” Trump told reporters assembled outside the courtroom Monday.
“But of course they’re getting their wish because I don’t have to be here for the most part, but I sort of do have to be here because I want to be here, because it’s a scam,” he continued. “And this is a case that should have never been brought, and it’s a case that now should be dismissed. Everybody saw what happened today.”
Trump took the stand Monday in a sweeping civil case alleging decades of fraud by him and his businesses.
The attorney general’s office is asking for $250 million in financial penalties and a ban on Trump and his children from serving as officers or directors of New York companies.
The former president has for months spun the narrative that he is a victim of politically motivated charges, even as those charges have piled up in separate cases in Washington, D.C., New York, Florida and Georgia.
He has targeted New York Attorney General Letitia James in particular, lashing out repeatedly at the Democratic attorney general and accusing her of what amounts to election interference.
The former president’s time on the witness stand at times appeared to be geared as much for a political audience as it was for those assembled in the courtroom.
He frequently avoided directly answering questions, gave meandering answers and suggested the case against him was politically motivated as he lashed out at Judge Arthur Engoron and James.
“We’re trying to figure out, why are you doing this?” Trump said at one point.
“No one understands it. Well, I understand it — it’s called pol-i-tics,” he added.
At the same time, Trump’s campaign operation was quick to seize on any comments from James or Engoron that could be perceived as biased.
Trump attorney Alina Habba decried the treatment of the former president as “such a demise of the American judicial system and democracy” in a clip shared by the Trump campaign.
“Letitia James sat there visibly shook as President Trump dropped truth bomb after truth bomb,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Wildly gesticulating and throwing side eyes after getting a taste of her own medicine.”
The Trump campaign sent out multiple fundraising solicitations during the day looking to capitalize on outrage over the former president’s court date.
And both the campaign and the candidate at multiple points Monday highlighted polling released a day earlier that showed Trump leading President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 match-up.
“When you look at the poll numbers that came out today from The New York Times and CBS … people are sick and tired of what’s happening. This is a sad — I think it’s a very sad day for America,” Trump said before leaving court for the day. “But anyway, this is a case that should have never been brought.”
James appeared undeterred, however, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka is set to take the stand Wednesday in the trial.
“He rambled, he hurled insults, but we expected that,” James said, adding that the former president engaged in “distractions” and “name calling.”
“But I will not be bullied; I will not be harassed,” James added. “This case will go on.”