NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump has testified in court as a soccer owner, casino builder and airline buyer. In one statement, he boasted that as president he saved “millions of lives” by preventing nuclear war. Another time he worried about the dangers of discarded fruit.
Thanks to decades of trials and legal battles, Trump is now poised to resume his role as a witness in extraordinary circumstances: as a former Republican president fighting to save the real estate empire that brought him fame and the White House.
Trump will testify in his New York civil fraud trial on Monday, taking the stand on a deeply personal matter that is shaping his image as a successful businessman and threatening to cost him control of luxury properties such as Trump Tower. His highly anticipated testimony in the trial of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit follows that of his eldest sons, Trump Organization executives Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who testified last week. His eldest daughter Ivanka is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.
Trump has testified in court in at least eight trials since 1986, according to a review of court records and reporting by the Associated Press. He has also been questioned under oath in more than a dozen depositions and administrative hearings.
In 1985, as owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, he was summoned to testify before Congress and testified on behalf of attorney and friend Roy Cohn at a state disciplinary hearing that led to Cohn’s disbarment. In an early flash of his fiery personality, Trump told the New Jersey Casino Commission in 1986 that plans for highway overpasses near one of his casinos “would be a disaster.” It would be a disaster.”
These testimonies, captured in thousands of pages of transcripts and some on videotape, provide clues to the approach Trump is likely to take in his testimony on Monday. They show clear parallels between Trump as a witness and Trump as president and current candidate for office. His rhetorical style in court cases over the years reflects his political vigor: a mix of ego, charm, defensiveness, aggressiveness, sharp language and distraction. He was combative and boastful, but sometimes vague and tended to hedge or be dismissive.
When he testified in the USFL’s antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1986, Trump denied allegations that he spied on NFL officials at one of his hotels, calling the claim “such a misinterpretation that it’s disgusting.”
When Trump tried to buy Eastern Air Lines’ Northeast shuttle service in 1988, he used his charisma, flashing a broad smile at the judge’s female clerks and shaking hands with the bailiff during a break in his testimony at a federal court hearing in Washington. Trump testified that his $365 million purchase, which was later approved, would be a “significant morale boost” for employees.
On the witness stand in a boxing-related case in 1990, Trump described a Mike Tyson fight he had planned for one of his casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as “one of the greatest rematches you can have.” Accused by two men of excluding them from a riverboat gambling venture, Trump claimed ignorance in 1999 when he testified: “I was shocked by this whole case. “I had no idea who these people were.”
Trump was briefly called to the witness stand in the New York case last month to explain out-of-court statements that the judge said violated a limited gag order.
He last testified in court in 2013, two years before he launched his victorious presidential campaign. An 87-year-old widower from a Chicago suburb had sued him over changes to the terms of a hotel and apartment tower in which she had purchased units as an investment. Trump became increasingly agitated as his testimony progressed, at one point raising his arms and yelling, “And then she sued me. It’s incredible!”
In 1990, Trump testified unsuccessfully in a trial over his company’s failure to pay pension contributions for about 200 undocumented Polish workers who had been hired to demolish a building to make way for Trump Tower. A year later, he was back in court in Manhattan, testifying against a man who claimed he had a contract to develop Trump’s board game and owed him 25% of the profits from “Trump: The Game.”
Trump won that lawsuit and another in 2005, in which he testified that a construction company had “squeezed” him by overcharging him $1.5 million for work on a golf course in New York’s Westchester County.
When Trump has been questioned in the past about his business and financial dealings, he has sometimes deflected responsibility and blame. In a 2013 statement about a failed condo project in Florida, Trump blamed an employee for paperwork that said he was developing a project when in reality he was not.
Another refrain in Trump’s statements is his disbelief that he would be taken so seriously for hyping his real estate projects.
“You always want to put the best possible touch on a property,” Trump said in a December 2007 deposition in his lawsuit against a journalist he accused of downplaying his assets. “No different than any other real estate developer, no different than any other businessman, no different than any politician.”
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