A $250 million civil fraud trial involving former President Donald Trump continued in Manhattan on Wednesday, with the judge expressing frustration as Trump's lawyers grilled his ex-accountant over inconsistent testimony.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron slammed his hand on the bench and exclaimed, "This is ridiculous!" as Trump's attorneys claimed that Donald Bender, a partner at accounting firm Mazars USA, was avoiding their questions. The judge also scolded the lawyers for taking too much time going through Trump's financial records.
"This is not a waste of time," argued Christopher Kise, one of Trump's attorneys. "We need to be allowed to parse the evidence - we didn't bring this case."
But Judge Engoron was not convinced and reminded the lawyers that Bender was not on trial and that they should not waste time with unnecessary questioning. He also pointed out that there was no jury present, prompting a frustrated response from Trump himself, who threw his arms in the air.
At one point, the judge even joked that the lawyers were performing as if there was a jury present and that they should not focus on pleasing the press. He then reminded them that they were in court to seek justice, not perform for an audience.
The judge's frustration with Trump's legal team continued after the lunch break, as they announced that they would continue questioning Bender for the rest of the day. Judge Engoron was heard saying that there was no jury and he did not know who they were performing for.
The Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, who has been attending the trial since it began on Monday, left for Florida after the lunch break. A source told CNN that he was going straight to the airport to return to his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the trial and Attorney General Letitia James, who has been personally attacked by the former president. James called Trump's appearance at the trial a "political stunt" and a "fundraising stop" and said she would not be bullied.
In the afternoon, the Attorney General's Office took a witness out of turn and called Camron Harris, an auditor at accounting firm Whitley Penn, who handled Trump's books in 2020. Harris testified that Eric Trump, also a defendant in the case, set the tone for the board of trustees at the Trump Organization.
Trump's personal attacks on the case and the individuals involved prompted Judge Engoron to issue a limited gag order on Tuesday afternoon. Trump has also filed an appeal over Engoron's ruling that he should be held liable for fraud, which also resulted in the cancellation of his business licenses in the state.
The trial has attracted protests outside the courthouse, with some even blocking the street on Monday morning. Trump has consistently accused the case of being a "railroading" and "the beginning of communism in our country."
After leaving court, Trump again ranted for several minutes against the case, calling it "rigged" and not ruling out the possibility of him becoming the next speaker of the House. The defense team also filed a notice of appeal against Engoron's decision.