Donald Trump takes the stand for historic New York fraud trial testimony

Donald Trump is on the witness stand in a trial that could collapse his family’s business and brand-building real-estate empire.

The former president, wearing a dark suit and light blue shirt and tie, walked slowly with his gaze towards the floor behind his attorneys as he arrived inside a third-floor courtroom in lower Manhattan on Monday.

The trial follows a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James that finds Trump and his chief associates defrauded banks and insurers by inflating his net worth and assets by as much as $2bn a year over a decade.

Her lawsuit seeks to recover $250m in ill-gotten gains and to effectively block the Trump family from doing business in the state, dealing a potentially crushing blow to his Trump Organization umbrella.

The proceedings on 6 November began the trial’s sixth week inside Judge Arthur Engoron’s courtroom, where Mr Trump’s adult sons, his former chief associates and allies turned state witnesses have already provided hours of testimony. Mr Trump, followed by his daughter Ivanka Trump on Wednesday, will be the last witnesses presented by the attorney general.

The former president’s turn on the stand marks a historic first among his mountain of civil and criminal litigation against him as he seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

Defendant Trump already made a surprise, brief appearance on the stand two weeks ago, in the middle of a day of testimony from Michael Cohen, and after the former president was once again accused of violating a gag order that blocks parties in the case from disparaging court staff.

When he testifies under what is expected to be at least a day of questioning from counsel with the attorney general, he will be the first former president to testify as a defendant in decades.

It’s also his first time in the courtroom since he abruptly walked out of proceedings after his attorneys failed to convince a judge to issue an immediate verdict in his favour, and after the judge fined him a second time for violating a trial gag order for his disparaging remarks about the judge’s chief clerk.

His testimony also comes after two days of testimony from his sons Donald Jr and Eric Trump, who both claimed that they had nothing to do with the creation of their father’s statements of financial condition, the allegedly fraudulent documents at the centre of the case, provided to financial institutions.

The judge, frequently targeted by Mr Trump on his Truth Social and in rants steps outside the courtroom’s doors, has already issued a summary judgment finding him liable for fraud. The bench trial, with the judge serving as both judge and jury, will determine how much, if anything, he is liable for, and whether the attorney general can succeed on six other claims. including falsifying business documents, insurance fraud, and conspiracy counts attached to each of them.

This is a developing story

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