The judge overseeing the New York civil fraud trial involving Donald Trump had to tell the former president's lawyers to control him after he went on a five-minute tirade.
Trump was not permitted to make his own closing statement. Judge Arthur Engoron rescinded permission on Wednesday, saying he did not believe Trump would stick to "relevant" matters. On Thursday, however, the judge appeared willing to give Trump an opportunity to speak. He asked the former president if he agreed to not go off on tangents, testify or introduce new information.
He replied from the defense desk in a nearly five-minute speech.
"I'm an innocent man; I've been persecuted by someone running for office," Trump said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking a judgment of $370 million plus interest. She asserted that Trump and executives at his company knowingly committed fraud by exaggerating the value of some of their assets in order to secure loans and get better insurance rates.
"This case goes outside of the financial statements," Trump said on Thursday. "There were no witnesses against us; there were great loans, the bank loans were paid back.
The judge in the case has already ruled that Trump committed fraud. This portion of the trial only deals with damages.
In court, Trump said this case was politically motivated.
"Let's get it straight: I’ve built all over the city. I've never had a problem. Suddenly, I have a problem," he said. "This is election interference. The person here hates Trump and doesn't want Trump to win an election."
In addition to awarding the state of New York millions of dollars, the judge could prohibit Trump from doing business in the state. Engoron said he expects to render his decision by the end of the month.
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