Judge Hams It Up for Cameras and AG Glares at Donald Trump on First Day of ‘Insane’ Civil Trial in NYC

Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP

Former president Donald Trump faces 91 criminal counts across four state and federal indictments, but he found himself in a New York City courtroom on Monday for an unrelated no-jury civil trial. 

Last fall, the New York State attorney general’s office brought a $250 million civil fraud case against the forty-fifth president, his company, and two of his sons for engaging in “persistent illegal acts” by overvaluing financial statements. While not required to attend the proceedings, Trump announced on his Truth Social platform over the weekend that he would be in the courtroom for the opening of the trial “to fight for my name and reputation.”

On Monday’s show, Megyn and Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, discussed the case, the antics of the judge and plaintiff, and how these legal battles have benefited Trump’s 2024 campaign.

The Case

In September 2022, the New York Attorney General’s Office, led by Attorney General Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Trump and several of his family members, associates, and businesses alleging “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” regarding financial statements.

At the time, James claimed her office interviewed 65 witnesses and reviewed millions of documents as part of an investigation into Trump that began in 2019 after she was elected. She said the evidence showed Trump submitted “more than 200 false and misleading asset valuations” that “inflated his net worth by billions of dollars.”

Late last month, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled the former president and his company deceived banks and insurers by over-inflating the value of his assets and net-worth. In a 35-page summary judgment, Engoron said Trump’s arguments to defend his actions were based in “a fantasy world, not the real world.” 

As punishment, Engoron ordered some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded, which would severely hinder his ability to do business in the sate of New York. The ruling also cleared the way for the no-jury civil trial to begin. Any outstanding issues in the lawsuit will be resolved at the trial that is expected to last three months. 

When Trump was president, James’ office sued his administration dozens of times over policies related to the environment, immigration, education, health care, and more. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the investigation and lawsuit are part of a politically motivated “witch hunt.” On his way into court on Monday, Trump said the trial is a failed “attempt to hurt me in an election”:

“If I weren’t leading in all the polls or if I weren’t running, I wouldn’t have any of these cases. I wouldn’t be seeing you this morning. But I’ll be seeing a lot of you because this is a horrible thing that’s happening to our country, and we’ve got to get it straightened away. So, we’ll go in and we’ll see our rogue judge, and we’ll listen to this man. I think most people get it. People are getting it. I can tell you the voter’s getting it because every time they give me a fake indictment, I go up in the polls…”

– Former President Donald Trump, October 2, 2023

While the former president and his team may be talking tough, Megyn believes there is some cause for concern about his chances in this “insane” case. “In speaking with Trump insiders, I think they’ve been more worried about this case than the criminal cases,” she explained. “I think they think that they can beat the criminal cases on the law – if not with the juries with judges – and I don’t know that they’re wrong about that either. But… this case is about shutting down Trump’s business enterprise.”

The Spectacle

Cameras were not expected to be in the courtroom for this trial, which is why many in the media were surprised when video was rolling on the former president, James, and the judge for a short time before the proceedings began. 

The attorney general could be seen glaring at Trump as he sat stone-faced with his legal team, while Engoron appeared to ham it up for the cameras. He removed his glasses and grinned widely once he realized the shot was on him. “It’s amazing to see how much this judge is smiling for the cameras and really enjoying being on screen and sticking it to Donald Trump,” Megyn said. “He sees the camera… he takes off his glasses like ‘look at me.'”

In Rubin’s view, the optics will benefit Trump. “I think that… anything that’s in there basically helps Trump because… he wants to show the hypocrisy of these people; he wants to show that the judge is kind of in on it with the prosecutor,” he explained. “That, ultimately, will pin him as the victim… There is not one person who will turn from Trump because of this.”

The End Game

Megyn said the ever-mounting legal battles against Trump may or may not impact Trump’s ability to win the 2024 election, but she does believe there will be long-term ramifications. “I feel like the biggest risk here is just yet another impediment to good people running for office,” she noted. “It’s very disheartening.”

That is what Rubin believes is really at stake here. “The specifics of whether he defrauded somebody on an appraisal of a property or some of the other things you just read out there are largely irrelevant,” he concluded. “Good people will just never get involved in politics anymore… good people will not do what we do for a living because they will look at us; good people will not step up and go to school board meetings because they will scare the hell out of you.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Rubin by tuning in to episode 639 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.