Donald Trump Just Really, Really Annoyed His Judge

Judge Arthur Engoron, a speech bubble illustrated coming out of his mouth, and Donald Trump embedded in the speech bubble, next to the logo reading "Totally Normal Quote of the Day."
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Jeenah Moon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images and David Dee Delgado/Getty Images.
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This is Totally Normal Quote of the Day, a new feature where we pull a particularly wild statement from the news as a reminder of just how extremely normal everything has become.

“I beseech you to control him, if you can.” —Judge Arthur Engoron on Monday, speaking to attorney Chris Kise as Donald Trump testified in his New York civil fraud trial.

The time finally came for Donald Trump to take the witness stand at his New York civil fraud trial, and he used the spotlight about how you’d expect: to rant about his wealth, political power, and how New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case was a “witch hunt.”

During the former president’s hourslong testimony, lawyers for James’ office tried to get Trump to pinpoint his role in inflating the value of some of his real estate empire’s signature properties, like skyscraper 40 Wall Street and his private Seven Springs estate in Westchester County. But the former president had his own plans, instead discussing how he felt his net worth is “significantly higher” than what his financial statements reported and how those very documents in question were “ancient history.”

Trump’s strategy was clearly testing the patience of Judge Arthur Engoron, who chastised Trump’s answers as “being nonresponsive, they are repetitive.” Engoron’s frustration hit a boiling point when he demanded Trump’s lawyer rein in his client. “I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will. I will excuse him and draw every negative inference that I can,” said Engoron.

For example, Kevin Wallace, lawyer for the New York attorney general’s office, tried questioning Trump on whether he discussed his financial statements with Allen Weisselberg, former Trump Organization chief financial officer. Instead of answering with a “yes” or “no,” Trump embarked on a monologue about brand value. “If I wanted to build up the statement, like you said I did before you found out just how rich we are, I would’ve added brand value here and I would’ve increased it by tens of millions of dollars,” said Trump.

That response by Trump prompted Engoron to ask Wallace, “did you ask for an essay on brand value?”

The barbs only continued from there.

When Trump was asked about the valuation of his New York Trump Tower apartment—financial documents in 2016 valued it at $327 million, but it was later lowered to $116.8 million in 2017 after Forbes Magazine outed Trump for incorrectly reporting its size—he deflected. “Probably, I said I thought it was too high,” said Trump. “I don’t know what’s too high anymore because I’m seeing things sold at numbers that are very high.” He then added that the valuation could have simply been a mistake, and that that’s what a disclaimer clause is for—a warning attached to financial documents. “There’s a disclaimer clause where you don’t have to get sued by the attorney general of New York,” Trump said.

His testimony continued with more monologues and asides, but he eventually did confirm his role in preparing financial documents. “I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions,” said Trump.

Finally, Trump’s time on the witness stand ended. His attorneys affirmed for the second time that they would be filing a mistrial motion, while James stood by her case against the former president. “The numbers don’t lie,” James said. “Mr. Trump obviously can engage in all of these distractions, and that is exactly what he did.