Trump launches into court monologue on closing day

Justice Arthur Engoron cut off Donald Trump after several minutes.

Justice Arthur Engoron cut off Donald Trump after several minutes. Photo: AAP

Donald Trump has argued his innocence and complained that the case against him is “fraud on me” as he launched into a brazen monologue on the closing day of his trial.

On Friday morning (AEDT), Trump’s lawyer unexpectedly asked Justice Arthur Engoron if the former president could speak, having previously been denied.

Justice Engoron asked Trump if he would abide by the rules and “just comment on the facts and the law?”

Trump didn’t answer the question but began speaking from the defence table for several minutes before the judge cut him off.

The former US president repeated his claim that the fraud trial was a “political witch hunt”.

“We have a situation where I’m an innocent man I’ve been persecuted by somebody running for office and I think you have to go outside the bounds,” the former president said.

“What’s happened here sir is a fraud on me,” Trump said.

“They want to make sure that I don’t win again and this is partially election interference.”

Trump said his financial statements are “perfect”.

“There are no witnesses against us. The banks got all their money paid back. There were great loans.”

Justice Engoron gave Trump a one-minute warning before finally cutting him off.

On Wednesday (local time) Trump was denied a bid to deliver his own closing arguments because he would not accept ground rules barring him from making a “campaign speech”.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to ban Trump from the state’s real-estate industry and force nearly $US370 million ($556 million) in penalties for allegedly manipulating the value of his properties to win better financing terms.

Justice Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his company engaged in fraud.

Donald Trump and his lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba during closing arguments. Photo: Getty

Bomb threat

Earlier, police and the bomb squad had responded to a bomb threat at Engoron’s home in Nassau County, New York.

The judge has been a frequent target of Trump’s criticism.

A court spokesperson confirmed that Engoron had been threatened and a Nassau County spokesperson confirmed that police had responded to a security incident at a residence at 5.30am, without providing further details.

Security has been an issue throughout the months-long trial.

Engoron’s top staffer faced threats after Trump criticised her as politically biased, prompting the judge to issue a gag order barring him from disparaging court staff.

Trump has been fined $US15,000 for twice violating the order.

As he arrived at court, Trump again criticised the trial as a “witch hunt” and complained that he was not being allowed to make his case.

Trump said he would hold a news conference after the hearing wraps up.

“I really have no rights,” Trump said.

As James, an elected Democrat, arrived at the courthouse, onlookers cheered and chanted, “Thank you, James”.

Police stood guard and tightly controlled entrances to the building.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election, has denied wrongdoing.

He has complained that the trial is interfering with his campaign but has used occasional court appearances to argue that he is the victim of political persecution.

Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will be the first to decide their preferred nominee this month.

Trump’s legal troubles have not diminished his commanding lead over party rivals.

Engoron will issue a verdict at a later date without a jury.

He found Trump liable for fraud in September, leaving the trial to focus largely on how much money Trump should surrender as ill-gotten gains.

Trump has appealed Engoron’s prior order and is almost certain to appeal any verdict against him, which could delay a final judgment for many months to a year or more.

Throughout trial, the state’s lawyers sought to show that Trump consistently overvalued many of the towers, golf clubs and other assets that burnished his reputation as a business mogul before he entered politics.

Trump admitted to providing inaccurate property valuations during defiant testimony in November.

Kise argued on Thursday that any alleged manipulation was harmless as banks and insurers that worked with the Trump Organization still turned a profit.

They would have been eager to do business with Trump even if his net worth was far lower, Kise said.

“He’s a whale client,” Kise said.

-with AAP

Topics: Donald Trump
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