Former US President Donald Trump appeared in court in New York for the start of the fraud trial against him and his two eldest sons. On Monday, immediately before the trial began, the 77-year-old Republican rejected the accusation of having artificially inflated the value of his real estate and directed sharp attacks against the judge and the prosecutor. Trump, who wants to run again in the presidential election in 2024, faces a fine worth millions in the civil case.

Judge Arthur Engoron is a “rogue judge,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom in New York. The African-American Attorney General Letitia James, who sued him in September 2022, was “racist” and a “horror show.”

The entire process was a “fraud” and a “sham,” the right-wing populist continued. The process was politically motivated and an “attempt to harm me in an election.”

Following his remarks, Trump took a seat in the courtroom, where the civil trial began with opening statements. Trump’s lawyer said that the ex-president had “built one of the most successful real estate empires in the world.” The real estate entrepreneur’s information about his assets was “true and correct.” In addition, banks made their own estimates.

A representative of the Attorney General’s Office, Kevin Wallace, emphasized that the fraud allegation had already been legally confirmed. Trump and the other defendants have in the past overstated the value of the assets by between $812 million and $2.2 billion (between €768 million and €2.1 billion) annually.

Right before the trial began, Attorney General James expressed confidence that she would be successful against Trump in court. “Justice will prevail,” said the lawyer, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party. “My message is simple: No matter how powerful someone is, no matter how much money someone thinks they have, no one is above the law.”

The attorney general accuses Trump of having inflated the assets of his real estate empire over the years in order to get better conditions for loans and insurance. Last week, James won an important legal victory: Judge Engoron ruled before the trial began that Trump overstated assets and thereby committed “fraud.”

The civil trial that has now begun is therefore particularly concerned with the question of how high the punishment will be against Trump and his sons Donald Trump Junior and Eric Trump. James is seeking a $250 million fine. She also wants the ex-president and his two eldest sons to be banned from running companies in the state. Trump does not face a prison sentence in the civil case.

Judge Engoron had already canceled business licenses for Trump properties last week, including the famous Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The exact impact of the decision is still unclear, but Trump could lose control of key parts of his real estate empire.

Dozens of witnesses and experts are expected to testify in the civil trial, which is scheduled to last several months. Trump announced on Sunday evening that he would attend the start of the trial “to fight for my name and for my reputation.” He is not obliged to appear in court in the proceedings.

The 77-year-old is the overwhelming favorite in the race for the presidential candidacy of the opposition Republicans – and wants to challenge incumbent Biden in the presidential election in November 2024. Trump is the favorite despite his numerous judicial problems.

In addition to the civil proceedings over fraud allegations in New York, the ex-president has been indicted in four criminal cases. Two indictments concern Trump’s attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and thereby stay in power.