Donald Trump said he had decided against testifying for a second time at his New York civil fraud trial, posting on social media that he “VERY SUCCESSFULLY & CONCLUSIVELY” testified last month and saw no need to appear again.
Trump had been expected to return to the witness stand on Monday as the last big defence witness in the trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit. The case threatens Trump’s real estate empire and cuts to the heart of his image as a successful businessman.
Trump announced he was cancelling his testimony in an all-capital-letters, a multi-part statement on his Truth Social platform, writing: “I WILL NOT BE TESTIFYING ON MONDAY.”
“I HAVE ALREADY TESTIFIED TO EVERYTHING & HAVE NOTHING MORE TO SAY,” Trump wrote, adding his oft-repeated claim that James and other Democrats have weaponised the legal system to hinder his chances at retaking the White House.
Trump was often defiant and combative when he testified on November 6. Along with defending his wealth and denying wrongdoing, he repeatedly sparred with the judge, who he criticised as “extremely hostile”, and slammed James as “a political hack”.
Trump answered questions from state lawyers for about three and a half hours, often responding with lengthy diatribes. His verbose answers irked the judge, Arthur Engoron, who admonished: “This is not a political rally.”
Had Trump returned to the stand on Monday, it would have been his lawyers leading the questioning, but state lawyers could have cross-examined him.
James sued Trump last year over what she claimed was his pattern of duping banks, insurers and others by inflating his wealth on financial statements.
Judge Engoron ruled before the trial that Trump and other defendants had engaged in fraud. He ordered that a receiver take control of some Trump properties, but an appeals court has paused that.
The judge is now considering six other claims, including allegations of conspiracy and insurance fraud. James is seeking penalties of more than US$300 million ($490m) and wants Trump banned from doing business in New York.
In recent days, Trump had been insistent on testifying again, one of his lawyers said, even though some of his previous visits to the courthouse as a spectator have resulted in him getting fined for disparaging the judge’s law clerk.
The lawyer, Alina Habba, said she had discouraged Trump from taking the stand because of the gag order that is in place. The same gag order was also in effect when he testified in November.
“He still wants to take the stand, even though my advice is, at this point, you should never take the stand with a gag order,” Habba said last week. “But he is so firmly against what is happening in this court and so firmly for the old America that we know, not this America, that he will take that stand on Monday.”