Judge erupts at Trump's lawyers for wasting time with 'ridiculous' repetitive questions aimed at Trump Organization's ex-accountant

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  • The judge in Donald Trump's New York fraud case is not happy with the former president's lawyers.

  • Justice Arthur Engoron snapped at Trump's lawyer, who was asking repetitive questions of a witness.

  • "You're not allowed to waste time," he said during one exchange.

Donald Trump's lawyers sparred with the judge overseeing the ex-president's civil fraud trial in downtown Manhattan Wednesday, arguing for their right to ask repetitive questions.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who's presiding over the trial, was having none of it.

"You're not allowed to waste time," he snapped at Trump's lawyers during one testy exchange.

On Wednesday, Trump's attorney Jesus M. Suarez continued his cross-examination of Donald Bender, an outside accountant who had compiled the Trump Organization's statements of financial conditions until 2020. The New York attorney general's office, which is bring the lawsuit, questioned Bender on Tuesday.

Suarez asked about whether Bender — and not Trump and his children — would be responsible for the statements, which the attorney general's office said included outrageous valuations that were fraudulently used to obtain bank loans. The move was a continuation of a strategy the Trump Organization's lawyers employed during an earlier criminal trial — trying to shift blame to Bender.

"The buck stops with you, right?" Suarez asked.

Bender stressed during multiple questions that he and his accounting firm, Mazars USA, was responsible for compiling the documents but that the Trump Organization was responsible for giving them the market value and liabilities for each property.

Engoron was eager to rush things along. The trial is scheduled to last until late December.

At one point Wednesday morning, Suarez pulled up a list of 200 corporate sub-entities of the Trump Organization — many of them appearing to be corporations for particular apartments — and started asking the same set of questions about Bender's work on each one.

"Can we just agree the questions will be the same and the answers will be the same for each of them?" Engoron asked, sounding peeved.

Bender said the answers would be the same for each of them, and they moved on.

A short while later, Suarez went through the financial statements for each year of Bender's more than a dozen years of involvement with the Trump Organization and started asking the same questions about each of them.

"We're not going to go through each year, are we?" Engoron asked. "No, I'm not going to let you do that."

Engoron asked Bender whether his answer "would be the same for each year." When Bender said yes, Engoron asked Suarez to move on.

"What's the difference?" Engoron said. "Jesus."

Lawyers representing Trump and his two eldest sons, who are co-defendants in the case, argued with the judge. They said the attorney general's office had a responsibility to make an affirmative case of wrongdoing for each year, and that their cross-examination punctured that.

Engoron said the process was inefficient. All the testimony, he said, was covered by simply asking if Bender's answers would be identical for each year.

"He said every year the answer will be the same," Engoron said.

It was a break from an otherwise dry day of testimony.

Sitting between his lawyers Alina Habba and Chris Kise, Trump looked on with interest. Eric Trump, who runs day-to-day operations at the Trump Organization, peered ahead from the audience gallery.

Letitia James Trump civil trial court
New York attorney general Letitia James steps out of the courtroom doing a short break in the civil business fraud trial against former President Donald Trump at New York Supreme Court.AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The AG's lawyers accused Trump's team of performing

Are you talking to me, or the press, or your audience?" Engoron asked Kise when he argued.

Kevin C. Wallace, an attorney from the attorney general's office, appeared to imply that Suarez was slow-walking the trial for Trump's benefit.

"There's no jury," he told the judge. "I don't know who they're performing for."

Moments later, Suarez started another line of year-by-year questions.

"Counselor, I don't speak just to hear myself," Engoron said, stopping the questions.

Suarez said he would finish up his questions with Bender by the end of the day. The press gallery erupted in nervous laughter.

"This is ridiculous. For reporters, I'm pounding the bench again," Engoron said. "There's no point in going through each line if the witness will answer the same for each line."

"All I'm asking is that you lump things together to not waste time," he continued.

Read the original article on Business Insider