Former President Donald Trump would be “lacerated” if he takes the stand in his $250 million civil trial, according to a legal expert.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman made the remarks while discussing New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against the former president on ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen‘s Mea Culpa podcast.
Cohen, whose 2019 congressional testimony triggered James’ investigation, could be a key witness in the civil case in which James’ office accuses Trump of filing fraudulent statements that inflated the value of his properties and assets for years in order to achieve financial perks.
On September 26, Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the civil trial, ruled that Trump had committed fraud while inflating the value of several properties and that the proceedings will now rule over six remaining allegations in James’ lawsuit, as well as the size of the penalty.
Speaking on Cohen’s podcast, Litman suggested that Trump’s legal team already knows they’re going to lose the case and are already looking ahead to appealing Engoron’s decision. Litman added that Trump could cite the Fifth Amendment in the trial, but would be irrelevant as he already answered questions for hours during his under-oath deposition in April.
“It’s going to be maybe six weeks to two months for the prosecution with some long cross-examinations,” Litman said. “And then what’s Trump going to do? If he takes the stand as a defense witness, and he can be treated as a hostile witness by the prosecution, he gets up and takes the stand. Now he’s waiving his Fifth Amendment rights, and he’ll get lacerated.
“When push comes to shove, they [Trump’s lawyers] are not going to have much to say, they know they’re going to lose, and they want to preserve issues for appeal,” Litman added. “The fact finder here is the judge himself, who Trump has been trashing, there’s obviously no love loss. And he’s [Trump] going to have to pin all his hopes on the appeal for the New York Intermediate Court.”
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s legal team via email for comment.
The civil trial could see Trump issued a fine totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as a ban from doing business in New York. Some of his properties could even be removed from his control or dissolved.
Trump attended the first few days of the civil trial in New York after vowing to “fight for my name and reputation,” but it is unclear whether he will be called to take the stand.
The former president and his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., are listed as potential witnesses for both James’ office and the defense, although they are not obliged to appear at the civil proceedings if called upon.
Elsewhere, Litman suggested that Trump’s potential hit to his business and finances will be a bigger “body blow” to the former president than the threat of jail in the four criminal cases he is facing.
“Some of the criminal stuff he almost seems to relish in a weird way. This is really calling him out as a fraud for his whole career for the things he cares most about,” Litman told Cohen. “I think this wounds him deeply both in practical terms and psychological terms.”