Early on the morning of November 6, Donald Trump took the stand during his civil fraud trial in a downtown Manhattan courtroom. Almost immediately, the former president——who has already been found guilty of inflating the value of his assets—dismissed the case against him as a witch hunt and derided Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, as a “political hack.”
When Judge Arthur F. Engoron reminded the former president that he was in a court of law, not at a political rally, Trump berated Engoron for deciding before the trial that he had, in fact, committed fraud. “He called me a fraud and he doesn’t know anything about me,” Trump complained. “The fraud is on the court, not on me.”
Unlike the four criminal cases Trump currently faces, his civil trial is proceeding without the threat of imprisonment. Instead, the court is considering how much Trump and the Trump Organization owe in fines following Engoron’s pre-trial ruling. James, who said Trump would face penalties for what she described as his “repeated and consistent fraud against the citizens of New York,” is seeking a fine of up to $250 million and a permanent ban on Trump and his adult sons running businesses in New York.
“This is a very unfair trial,” Trump said, finally. “Very, very unfair, and I hope the public is watching.”
Less than twenty-four hours after Trump stepped down from the witness stand, the public seemed ready to move on to election-day results. Like other New Yorkers, I was monitoring an uncontested race in District 9 in central Harlem, where Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five—formerly known as the Central Park Five—was poised to win a seat on the City Council more than two decades after his conviction in the rape and beating of a white jogger was overturned.