Trump, who is running in the Republican presidential primary, appeared in New York court on Monday for his trial after New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into alleged business fraud committed by his businesses.
James said that the former president artificially inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain benefits such as better bank loans and reduced tax bills between 2011 and 2021. Engoron, who last week ruled in James’ favor in one claim—persistent and repeated fraud by Trump, his adult sons, their businesses and executives—will decide on six other accusations, including falsifying business records, insurance fraud and conspiracy claims.
The former president may be ordered to pay damages but is not facing criminal charges in this trial, which is separate from his four criminal cases. Trump maintains his innocence and has condemned Engoron’s ruling as “un-American.”
Engoron temporarily allowed cameras inside the courtroom ahead of the trial, though cameras would not be allowed once proceedings officially began. Video quickly emerged on social media showing the judge appearing to smile at a camera before the trial, sparking GOP outrage.
“Video cameras allowed into the courtroom for a brief moment – Judge gives a smile – Reporters are ushered out,” conservative news outlet The Daily Caller wrote in a post to X, formerly Twitter.
“The judge in Trump’s case smiles for his closeup. What an absolute clown show,” wrote the conservative outlet Citizen Free Press.
Robby Starbuck, a former Republican congressional candidate, wrote: “Wow. This video from inside the courtroom speaks volumes. Watch NY AG Leticia James stare at Trump. She looks like an obsessive creep. Then watch the Judge smile for his moment in the sun. These people are deranged, Marxist tyrants.”
“We have a serious crisis in our judicial system. So many demons,” wrote journalist Julie Kelly.
When reached by Newsweek on Monday, a spokesperson for the New York court’s public information office declined to comment on the critiques, explaining that judges do not comment on pending litigation.
Legal experts have said the outcome of the trial could significantly hamper his ability to conduct business in New York.
Engoron last week ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses in New York be rescinded and that the companies that own some of his properties be handed over to independent receivers. Legal experts have described the ruling as the corporate death penalty, and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen on Sunday said it could be a financial catastrophe for him.