Trump’s Business and Political Ambitions on the Brink of Convergence as He Testifies in New York Civil Case: A Compelling Saga Unfolds

NEW YORK (AP) — When Donald Trump enters the Manhattan courtroom to testify in his civil fraud trial, on Monday, get ready for an unparalleled spectacle: a former president and the leading Republican presidential candidate defending himself against allegations of greatly exaggerating his net worth.

These charges strike at the very core of the meticulously crafted Trump brand and jeopardize his control over a significant portion of his business empire.

In addition, this appearance could potentially set the stage for a defining element of the 2024 election if Trump becomes the GOP nominee: a prominent candidate, on trial, utilizing the witness stand as a campaign platform while aiming for a return to the White House despite facing multiple criminal indictments.

“This will be an astonishing moment. Even if he was simply an ex-president facing these charges, it would still be dramatic. But the fact that he is overwhelmingly favored as the GOP candidate makes this Monday an astounding event,” remarked presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

The courtroom at 60 Centre Street has already become a familiar sight for Trump. Over the past month, he has spent hours voluntarily seated at the defense table, observing the proceedings. Trump previously took the stand — unexpectedly and briefly — after being accused of violating a partial gag order. He denied the violation, but Judge Arthur Engoron disagreed and imposed a fine.

While most of his statements have occurred outside the courtroom, Trump has adeptly utilized the gathered media to express his indignation and shape the day’s events in the most favorable light.

On Monday, Trump will once again face Engoron, a judge whom he has criticized on his social media platform in recent days, labeling him as a “wacko” and a “RADICAL LEFT, DEMOCRAT OPERATIVE JUDGE” who has already “ruled viciously” against him.

Furthermore, Trump will be accompanied by his former fixer and now witness, Michal Cohen, who stated his intent to attend Monday’s proceedings in an interview.

“I plan to be present at Donald’s appearance, as he was gracious enough to attend my court appearances,” Cohen confirmed.

The topics expected to be addressed include Trump’s involvement in his company’s decision-making, the valuation of his properties, and the preparation of his annual financial statements. Trump is likely to face questions about loans and other transactions based on the statements, as well as any intentions he had in presenting his wealth to banks and insurers in the manner documented.

Trump may also be asked to discuss his view and valuation of his brand, alongside the economic impact of his fame and his time as president. Additionally, he may be questioned about claims that his financial statements actually underestimated his wealth.

Trump has argued that disclaimers on his financial statements should have alerted individuals relying on the documents to conduct their own research and verify the figures themselves. This is an answer he is likely to reiterate while testifying. According to Trump, the disclaimer absolves him of any wrongdoing.

, the former president’s middle son, who testified in the case last week, stated that his father is enthusiastic about his upcoming appearance on the stand.

“I know he’s very fired up to be here. And he thinks that this is one of the most incredible injustices that he’s ever seen. And it truly is,” the younger Trump told reporters on Friday, asserting that his family is prevailing despite the judge largely ruling against them.

Unlike most Americans, Trump has extensive experience fielding questions from lawyers, having a long history of depositions and courtroom testimonies that provide insight into his potential responses. However, Cohen, who worked for Trump for over a decade, noted that none of Trump’s previous experiences compare to the gravity of his current situation. The previous matters were largely civil in nature, without significant consequences for Trump’s freedom or finances.

“Right now, the New York attorney general case poses a threat to the survival of his eponymous company and his financial future,” Cohen remarked. Regarding Trump’s upcoming criminal cases — accusing him of misclassifying hush money payments, attempting to illegally overturn the 2020 election result, and withholding documents at his Mar-a-Lago club — Cohen emphasized that they carry far more severe consequences, most notably the potential loss of his freedom.

Brinkley, the historian, acknowledged the lack of precedent for Trump’s appearance but highlighted that past presidents have testified in trials accusing them of wrongdoing. He cited a case in 1915 when former President Theodore Roosevelt, following an unsuccessful third-party candidacy for a third term, was sued for libel after criticizing New York Republican Party boss William Barnes.

After a five-week trial, with the former president spending eight days on the witness stand, the judge eventually ruled in Roosevelt’s favor.

“Those five weeks were incredibly challenging,” he wrote in a letter to his son. “But the outcome was a great triumph, and I am determined to avoid any further libel suits and, for now, refrain from active participation in politics.”

___ Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.


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