Light Wave


Trump slapped with $10K fine after suspicious testimony

By Jake Beardslee · October 25, 2023

In brief…

  • Judge ordered Trump to testify at fraud trial, then fined him for lack of credibility
  • Trump insisted comments were about ex-lawyer Cohen, not judge's clerk, but admitted she seemed "unfair"
  • Episode provided preview of challenges from Trump's many lawsuits and indictments
  • His lawyers had successfully questioned credibility of prosecution witness Cohen earlier in day
Donald Trump was questioned on the witness stand at his civil fraud trial, gave brief but questionable testimony, and was promptly fined $10,000 by the judge for violating a gag order and lacking credibility.  Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

A New York judge ordered former president Donald Trump to testify from the witness stand on Wednesday in an ongoing civil fraud trial against him. Judge Arthur Engoron questioned Trump directly and determined that his answers lacked credibility, then fined him $10,000 for violating a gag order by commenting on court staff earlier that day.

Wearing a navy suit, Trump gave a brief testimony insisting that spontaneous comments he made to reporters in a courthouse hallway were about his former lawyer Michael Cohen, not the judge’s law clerk Allison Greenfield as alleged. However, Trump admitted he thought Greenfield was “maybe unfair” and “very biased.” After about three minutes on the stand, Judge Engoron immediately declared that “the witness is not credible” and imposed the fine.

The episode provided a preview of potential challenges for Trump, who faces several other lawsuits and indictments. It occurred during a trial about New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit accusing Trump of fraudulently inflating his net worth. Although he has frequently attended the trial, Trump had not testified in open court for 10 years until Wednesday.

Judge Engoron said he wanted to prevent threats against his staff. He had already fined Trump $5,000 last week for social media comments about Greenfield. Wednesday’s comments directly to reporters pushed Engoron to call Trump to testify.

The day had otherwise gone relatively well for Trump as his lawyers questioned Cohen, Trump’s former fixer who is now a witness for the prosecution. They provoked Cohen into admitting past lies and contradictions regarding his involvement with Trump’s financial statements.

However, Engoron said other evidence was strong enough that Cohen’s credibility as a witness did not matter much. James agreed the case relies on extensive documents and witnesses beyond Cohen. After court adjourned, Trump asserted that Cohen’s admissions should invalidate the case, but still faces accountability according to Cohen.