1 of 7 | Former U.S. President Donald Trump testified that the values of his properties were improperly estimated "both high and low" in financial statements as he testified in his New York fraud trial. Pool Photo by Eduardo Munoz/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump took the stand in the penalty phase of his $250 million civil fraud trial in New York on Monday weeks after he was found guilty of inflating the value of his real estate properties.
During the testimony, Trump said that he did believe that values of his statement of financial condition were off, "both high and low" in response to a question from state attorney Kevin Wallace.
He specifically said his triplex apartment in Trump Tower was overvalued with a correction of about $200 million applied to his financial statement.
"I thought the apartment was overvalued when I looked at it," he said.
He, however, argued that the value of his "brand" -- not a part of the financial statement -- in the billions.
"The most valuable asset was the brand value," Trump said. "I became president because of my brand."
Trump quickly became defensive after being sworn in calling the prosecutors and "every other Democratic district attorney, AG, U.S. attorney -- Trump haters."
"The judge will rule against me because he will always rule against me," Trump said.
Trump's testimony signals a historic moment in American justice as a former commander-in-chief and current White House candidate finds himself embroiled in numerous legal problems, including federal criminal charges.
Trump spoke from the witness stand for the second time in the trial as polls showed the Republican frontrunner leading President Joe Biden in many of the critical battleground states one year before the 2024 election.
Judge Arthur Engoron attempted to rein in Trump's long-winded and oft times off-topic responses on several occasions. After Trump swiped at the judge when asked about his 2014 statement of financial condition, Engoron implored him to answer the questions posed to him.
"You can attack me -- you can do whatever you want," Engoron said. "Please just answer the questions."
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against Trump, called the former president to the stand as the state's penultimate witness, setting the stage for a high-stakes legal showdown that could upend Trump's brand and financial interests.
James is seeking at least $250 million for the fraud that she asserts inflated Donald Trump's wealth by $2.2 billion.
"Trump can try to hide his wrongdoings behind taunts and threats, but we will not be bullied out of uncovering the truth," James said on social media Sunday, referring to Trump's repeated verbal attacks on court officials and potential witnesses throughout the trial.
Trump's testimony is being used to determine the amount of damages the former president will pay after Engoron issued a summary ruling that found Trump's real estate business enriched itself by inflating the value of his real estate, including his hotels and golf clubs.
James said her office was using the civil trial to pinpoint the individuals most responsible for fraudulent activities carried out by the Trump Organization.
"The judge found fraud; the question is, who's the one most directly involved in the fraud and what is the amount of the fraud?" she said. "To the extent that Trump is inflating numbers or deflating numbers, I think that can become pretty clear by an examination of him."
Trump's lawyers have sought to shift responsibility onto accountants who were involved in preparing financial statements for the Trump Organization.
It was possible that Trump and his children could testify again when the defense presents its case.
Under Engoron's Sept. 26 ruling, all of Trump's New York business licenses were revoked, as well as those of his co-defendants, including his two sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who testified at the trial last week, with both maintaining their innocence.
Trump Jr. testified he approved his father's financial statements but emphasized that other executives in the company were responsible for keeping track of the books.
More than a month before the Trump family testimony, the judge found the elder Trump had consistently lied about the value of his New York real estate, which defrauded banks and insurers for years, prompting an investigation by James into Trump's holdings throughout the state.
Meanwhile, Trump has appealed the ruling, while criticizing James and Engoron as political pawns.
Trump was placed under a limited gag order last month due to inflammatory remarks he made about court officials on camera and on social media.
Then two weeks ago, Trump was unexpectedly called to the witness stand to face questions from the judge about a statement he made on one of the court's clerks, leading to a $10,000 fine and a warning from Engoron to comply with the gag order or face stiffer penalties.
Days ago Engoron expanded the gag order to prohibit Trump's legal team from making any further comments regarding confidential communications between the judge and his staff.
Trump continues to deny he did anything wrong, while claiming the civil trial was an attempt to interfere with the 2024 election.
Trump is also scheduled to go on federal trial In March after being indicted for his failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump, who is the first president in history to face federal criminal charges, was also indicted with 19 co-defendants under Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law for conspiracy to commit fraud in the 2020 election.
Separately, Trump was hit with a federal indictment in Florida this past summer on 37 counts for his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving office.
He is also set to go on civil trial in January as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by author E. Jean Carroll, who seeks $10 million in damages from the former president.