Trump is ‘toast’ in New York fraud trial, says former Watergate prosecutor – The Guardian US
Nick Akerman says ex-president erred by testifying in person after invoking fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination
Donald Trump is “toast” in the civil fraud trial involving his business empire and put himself in an incredibly bad position when he agreed to testify in person after previously invoking his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination, Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, told CNN on Wednesday.
“Basically at this point, Donald Trump is toast,” said Akerman, who was an assistant special prosecutor on the 1970s team that investigated President Richard Nixon and top aides for their involvement in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and subsequent revelation of other nefarious political activities. “I mean he is basically going to be found to be a liar by the judge.”
Trump testified on Monday as part of an ongoing trial in which the New York attorney general, Letitia James, is suing the former president for fraudulently inflating the value of business assets to secure more favorable terms on loans and insurance contracts.
The judge overseeing the case, Arthur Engoron, already ruled Trump and the family company, the Trump Organization, did in fact commit fraud – the trial taking place in Manhattan is to determine what penalty they will pay. James is seeking $250m and to bar the former president from conducting real estate business in the state of New York.
Trump sat for a deposition in the case in August 2022 and invoked the fifth amendment more than 400 times. Despite that, he testified in court last week that he did not commit fraud. Trump used his appearance on the stand to rail against the judge and what he said was unfair treatment in the trial, bringing sharp rebuke from the bench.
In New York, a judge can draw an adverse inference from a decision to invoke the fifth amendment in a civil case.
“You’ve got contradictory testimony. You can use his assertion of the fifth amendment against him. To basically find that he’s lying,” Akerman said. “I just don’t see how this judge, at the end of the day, is not gonna find with respect to Donald Trump ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’.”
Akerman added that in the 40 years he had been practicing civil law, a handful of his clients had taken the fifth amendment, but had “never seen somebody do such a stupid move as to suddenly start testifying after you’ve taken the fifth”.
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James rested her case on Wednesday and Trump’s team is set to begin their defense on Thursday.