Donald Trump denounces before the judge “a legal and political war” to undermine his candidacy in 2024 | International

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Donald Trump takes the oath before testifying, this Monday in the New York court.SHANNON STAPLETON (REUTERS)

Donald Trump returned to a New York court on Monday to testify in a civil trial for fraud that threatens to undermine the real estate empire that forged his reputation before entering politics. His brand image, that of the powerful self-made tycoon, which was the springboard to the presidency in 2016. Like his two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric last week, the former president has responded to accounting questions that the Judge Arthur Engoron, who is investigating the case, already declared fraud: how the Trumps inflated the value of several properties to obtain benefits from banks and insurance companies. According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, the fraud lasted a decade, between 2011 and 2021 (the last stretch, coinciding with his stay in the White House), during which he exaggerated his fortune by 2,200 millions of dollars [unos 2.047 millones de euros]and obtained benefits of a hundred million in exchange.

Under oath, Trump has denounced the “political war” of which he says he is the object of the Democrats. Early in the morning, before heading to the Manhattan courthouse, he criticized Judge Engoron and Prosecutor James on social media and, before entering the courtroom, claimed that the case is an attempt to undermine his 2024 presidential bid. “It is a political war, as you would call it, or a political legal war,” he said upon entering the room. Once on the stand, he has repeated the argument put forward by his two sons that the irregularities are due to the external accounting firm that wrote the reports, and that, in the specific case of the Mar-a-Lago property, a Of those investigated, she thought: “I was very undervalued, but I didn't do anything about it, I just let it be.” The former president has explained that he generally felt that his assets were undervalued in his financial statements.

The length of Trump's responses has exasperated Judge Engoron, who, addressing one of the defense lawyers, reminded him that they were in a courtroom, not at a political rally. The magistrate has asked the lawyer to counterclaim Trump to expedite his statement.

The Trump Organization, which like the former president, his two eldest sons and top company executives, is accused of fraud, according to the judge inflated the value of golf courses, apartment towers and other assets at a time when many Lenders refused to do business with him. The favorite Republican candidate to reach the White House in 2024 has denied any wrongdoing.

Unlike the four criminal cases he faces, this civil trial does not threaten to put him in prison, but it does threaten to cost him a penalty of 250 million dollars, requested by prosecutor James, and, above all, to harm the activity. of the organization and even disqualifying the Trumps from running any business in New York, their home state. The judge has already canceled the commercial certificates of the companies that control much of their businesses, although this order will be on hold during the appeal. The former president's daughter Ivanka Trump, who is not charged, is scheduled to testify this Wednesday.

Trump has made a virtue of disappointment, taking advantage of every indictment or judicial setback to solicit donations for his campaign, alleging that he is being persecuted for his political opinions. Prosecutor James is a Democrat, as is Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg, who in April handed her the first indictment for the Stormy Daniels case (the alleged payment of a bribe to a porn actress to silence an extramarital affair), so Trump presents himself to his followers as the victim of a political witch hunt. At the start of the trial, on October 2, he described the “New York Democrats” as “corrupt tyrants.”

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It seems that victimhood is working for him, both in fundraising for his campaign and in voting intention: the Republican leads the polls in five of the six pivotal states, decisive in deciding the presidency in 2024. Biden is only in the lead in one of the six decisive states, according to a survey published this Sunday.

Evidence presented in the civil trial so far has revealed that company executives, including the two oldest sons, manipulated the appraised value of iconic family properties, such as the Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, which to which the indictment is linked for retaining classified information taken from the White House in January 2021. A main witness, the magnate's former lawyer and manager Michael Cohen, testified that Trump ordered him to falsify financial statements to increase his net worth. In fact, the investigation began precisely after Cohen testified before Congress in 2019 that Trump and his employees had manipulated his assets to satisfy his interests.

Prosecutor James developed the case, presenting the Trump Organization's pattern of inflating the value of the company's properties in documents filed with lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In September 2022, James' office rejected a settlement offer from Trump's lawyers. Days later, she filed a lawsuit against him and his company, accusing them of a broad scheme of fraudulent business practices. The trial began on October 2, after a New York appeals court rejected the former president's dilatory maneuvers. The decision came after the judge overseeing the case concluded that Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets and stripped him of control over some of his iconic New York properties, including Trump Tower, the symbol of his empire.

Trump's anger has been evident at all times, and his angry reactions in court, where he has disqualified the judge's assistants, have earned him $15,000 fines for twice violating a gag order that prevents him from criticizing court staff. judicial authority. He has also ridiculed his legal opponents as “racist” and “deranged” during his rallies and on social media. Although until this Monday his presence had not been required in court, he has already appeared several times amid evident gestures of disdain and taking advantage of the television set at the doors of the judicial building to denounce the political persecution of which he claims to be the object. . Judge Engoron extended the gag order to the family's attorneys on Friday.

Trump's busy court schedule threatens to distract him from the election campaign for much of next year. The trial in New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan was scheduled to last until early December, but could end sooner if the state calls its last witnesses to testify this week. It is unclear how many witnesses the defense will call. Trump's appearance this Monday is the 24th in the order of testimonies.

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