The judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial despairingly pressed the ex-president’s lawyer: “I beseech you to control him if you can.”
Judge Arthur Engoron’s plea reflected his frustration at an incorrigible witness who boasted Monday about his piles of cash, aimed scathing political attacks and spouted uniquely illogical logic.
But Engoron, who is presiding over the New York trial, also put his finger on a deeper question that will define a singular political figure’s place in history.
No mere lawyer could impose the kind of discipline that two-and-a-half centuries of constitutional checks and balances could not provide during Trump’s time in office or since. And after threatening to dismiss the ex-president from the witness stand, Engoron opted to let the Trump storm rage in the apparent hope that it would blow itself out — though history has shown it never does.
Trump’s combative defense against claims he inflated his wealth to rip off banks, insurance firms and New York state, served as a troubling preview of a 2024 election season that is likely to become ensnared with his massive legal peril. But it also revealed insights into Trump’s relentless refusal to give an inch to his enemies and showed why voters who despise East Coast authority figures and liberal societal codes adore him.
His testimony offered warnings to lawyers who will seek to puncture his self-created bubble of alternative realities with facts and evidence — and showed how he might try to charm and confuse jurors in his coming criminal trials.
As he climbed into the witness box and lifted his hand and swore to tell the truth — an almost ironic act given his record of falsehoods — Trump obliterated yet another convention. Ex-presidents in America don’t typically get called to explain their actions in court. And Monday’s four-hour dive into the Trump Organization’s financial records was just a warm up for subsequent criminal courtroom dramas that could mean the Republican Party will nominate a convicted felon for president. Trump denies wrongdoing in each and every case against him.