The former President Donald Trump’s civil trial in New York has been met with strong criticism from the judge overseeing the case. Judge Arthur Engoron has once again expressed his disapproval of the former president, rejecting Trump’s appeal for a directed ruling to clear his name. In the ongoing case where New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses Trump of fraudulently inflating the value of his properties and assets, Engoron is expected to make a decision on the severity of the punishment in the coming months.
Trump, who has been vocal in denying any wrongdoing, has labeled the investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at derailing his 2024 campaign. Newsweek reports that Trump could face significant penalties, including hefty fines, property seizures, or being barred from conducting business in New York State. Engoron disagreed with Trump’s request for the court to rule in his favor and highlighted several “fatal flaws” in the former president’s defense, particularly questioning the credibility of the testimony provided by Eli Bartov, a research professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Bartov’s testimony claimed that there was no evidence of fraud committed by Trump or his family in their financial statements. However, it was later revealed that Bartov received a substantial sum of money for defending the former president. Engoron criticized Bartov’s credibility, stating that his testimony showed that some experts would say anything for a large sum of money. The judge further emphasized that Bartov had lost all credibility due to his persistent efforts to justify every misstatement made by the ousted president.
“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. However once they announced that he would remain on the stand for the entirety of the day, Engoron erupted in anger.
“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. “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 one point, Kise agreed “to streamline” the questioning, which led Engoron to respond, “Let’s not waste time.”
Engoron suggested that Trump’s legal team seemed to be using dramatic tactics in the courtroom, aiming to influence either the jury or the media. However, these strategies may not be effective in a bench trial, where the judge alone will make the final decision.
“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?”
Throughout a period of more than 10 weeks, Engoron, Trump, and his legal team engaged in intense exchanges before the civil trial finally came to an end on December 13, following the completion of all testimonies.
The closing arguments are set to take place in early January in New York.