Donald Trump, the former President of the United States, clashed with a federal judge on Wednesday when he testified in a civil case accusing him of misusing funds from his charity for political and business gain.
Trump, who has long had a combative relationship with the federal judiciary, clashed early in the day with Judge Jed S. Rakoff at a federal court in Manhattan. During a pretrial hearing, Trump accused the judge of possessing a “horrible record” along with a “terrible attitude.”
Despite the attempts of his lawyers to get him to focus his answers on the legal matters at hand, Trump continued to jab at the judge, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. At one point, Trump even accused Judge Rakoff of only being a trial attorney for a few months before becoming a judge.
In response, Judge Rakoff reprimanded Trump for his behavior, telling him he was “not in the same position as any other litigant” and that he should “be careful.”
The New York Attorney General’s office is accusing the Trump Foundation of violating campaign finance laws by misusing charitable funds to pay legal bills for Trump’s businesses and to support his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump denies any wrongdoing and argues the case is politically motivated.
During the pretrial hearing, Trump’s lawyers sought to get Judge Rakoff to limit the scope of the deposition in an attempt to prevent Trump from being pressed too hard on issues relating to his 2016 presidential campaign. At one point, Trump himself tried to intervene and ask the judge not to allow questions about his past statements and conduct regarding the charity.
Judge Rakoff denied the request, saying that while the defense had an obligation to keep the questions focused, “the witness also has a degree of obligation to at least answer that which is properly put to him.”
The case is set to continue with a scheduled trial in July. In the meantime, Trump may have to face additional appearances in court. No matter how the case progresses, it is clear that Trump’s clashes with Judge Rakoff may set a precedent for future courtroom engagements.