Trump’s Combative Testimony in Fraud Trial Foreshadows Approach in Upcoming Criminal Cases

An illustration of Trump in court

During a landmark fraud trial, the former president adopted a strategy that mirrored his approach in real estate and politics, eschewing rules and technicalities while relying on bluster and self-promotion. His combative appearance in court, marked by evasive and partisan responses, offers a preview of his behavior as a defendant in the upcoming criminal cases against him.

Mr. Trump repeatedly frustrated Judge Arthur Engoron by refusing to provide direct answers to the attorney general’s office’s questions, often diverting discussions to emphasize the supposed worth of his properties or casting aspersions on the judge and prosecutors. His testimony reflected the same tone and language used in his social media posts and political rallies, aiming to energize his base. While his testimony was not broadcast, reporters present transmitted his remarks to the outside world. Aware of this, Mr. Trump used his time on the stand to vehemently defend himself, and even his Truth Social account posted an attack on the judge during a break.

The attorney general’s office has accused Mr. Trump, his top associates, and his companies of artificially inflating asset values on financial documents to secure more favorable loans. In court, Mr. Trump tried to assert that the actual worth of his assets far exceeded the figures on paper and that he had fully repaid the allegedly defrauded banks. His exchanges with the judge grew heated, with the judge treating Mr. Trump like any other defendant, despite his unique status as a former president and potential Republican nominee.

As the threats against him increase, Mr. Trump has become more belligerent in his rhetoric, adopting the confrontational style that propelled him to secure the 2016 Republican nomination. He has targeted prosecutors by name and criticized court staff. Previously placed under a gag order by Judge Engoron, Mr. Trump’s confrontations in court suggest his growing frustration with the legal proceedings. The upcoming criminal trials, each carrying the possibility of imprisonment, will unfold in tandem with the US presidential election, further intensifying the stakes for the former president.