NEW YORK – Donald Trump went on trial on Monday for fraud, in a civil case against him and his family business that could deal a major blow to the former United States (US) president’s real estate empire.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is accused by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James of inflating the value of his assets by billions of dollars to secure better loan and insurance terms.
“This is a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time,” Trump said before entering the courtroom at a state court in downtown Manhattan.
“We have a great company. I built a great company. It’s tremendous,” he continued. “It’s got some of the greatest real estate assets in the world. And now, I have to go in before a rogue judge.”
Trump, wearing a dark blue suit, a brighter blue tie and an American flag pin on his lapel, again called James, who is Black, “racist”, and said the Democrat had a vendetta against him.
The former president plans to attend the first week of trial, according to a court filing in an unrelated case. He is expected to testify later in the case, a spokesman said.
“No matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law,” James told reporters before entering the courtroom. “The law is both powerful and fragile. And today in court will prove our case.”
Alina Habba, a lawyer who has represented Trump, said before entering the courtroom: “We will continue to fight in hopes that there is some level of law and order.. Although my faith in the system is wary, I do have faith in Donald Trump.”
The trial comes a week after the judge presiding over the case found Trump liable for fraud, and will largely concern the penalties he must face.
James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year restriction on commercial real estate activities by Trump and his flagship Trump Organisation. (Reuters)