During a court session on Thursday, the judge presiding over New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud trial against Donald Trump displayed unusual behavior. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron became visibly frustrated during a cross-examination of a witness when he felt the line of questioning was becoming overly technical. According to reports, Engoron slammed his hand on the table and exclaimed, “This is ridiculous!” in response to Trump’s lawyers accusing the witness, Mazars USA partner David Bender, of evading their questions.
“Don’t waste time,” he added as Trump’s attorneys tried arguing that they had to go through their client’s records “year by year” with the witness.
Trump’s attorneys had already spent “part of Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday morning” parsing Bender’s testimony, The Post noted. When they advised that he would remain on the stand for the rest of the day, that’s when Engoron lost his temper.
“This is ridiculous!” he said, adding: “Mr. Bender isn’t on trial here.”
“We need to be allowed to parse the evidence,” Trump attorney Christopher Kise argued in response, according to The Post. “We didn’t bring this case.”
“We haven’t got one answer from him,” another Trump attorney, Alina Habba, added. “He has no memory as we sit here.”
At a certain juncture, Kise agreed to “streamline” the questioning, prompting Engoron to urge against time wasting. Engoron seemed to suggest that Trump’s legal team might be employing courtroom theatrics more suited for a jury trial or media attention, but such tactics were not appropriate for a bench trial where the judge solely determines the outcome.
“There is no jury here,” he told the Trump team at least once, according to the report. He then asked: “Who are you talking to — me, the press or the audience?”
Before the commencement of the ongoing trial, Engoron had previously ruled that Trump and his sons had fraudulently inflated their net worth to secure loans. Trump’s legal team lodged an appeal against this ruling on Wednesday.
Engoron has also taken precautions to prevent any covert actions by Trump to safeguard his wealth during the trial. In a recent ruling issued on Thursday morning, Engoron forcefully demanded that all defendants involved in the case disclose their current ownership of businesses and any third-party interests in these organizations. This requirement extends to scenarios like the creation of new entities or any planned asset or liability transfers to other entities.
The court-appointed monitor, former federal Judge Barbara Jones, has requested comprehensive financial disclosure from Trump, his two eldest sons (Donald Jr. and Eric), former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney within one week.
This order was issued before Trump’s civil trial in Manhattan entered its fourth day. Prosecutors have already convinced Engoron that there is “conclusive evidence” that the former president exaggerated his assets and that the Trump Organization lost its business certification.
Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, is seeking $250 million in damages from Trump and a prohibition on the president and his two sons conducting business in New York.
According to former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe, Engoron’s order on Thursday represents the “logical next step” in the court proceedings, as guardians will soon be appointed to oversee the financial activities and potential dissolution of the business entities involved in the case.