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Donald Trump appeared in New York court on Tuesday for the third week of a civil fraud trial which the former U.S. president claimed is impacting his campaign for re-election in 2024.

Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, arrived off a Monday campaign stop in Iowa and after a weeklong absence from the trial, centering on allegations that he inflated his net worth to secure more favorable loan terms.

“I should be in Iowa now. I should be in New Hampshire now,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom, referring to two important states early in a U.S. presidential election campaign.

Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens

Trump, dressed in a dark blue suit and wearing a U.S. flag pin on his lapel, lashed out at the Biden administration and repeated his claim that the case amounted to a political witchhunt.

Trump has repeatedly used his legal woes as a campaign fundraising tool and his appeals have resulted in a surge in money from small donors, helping him roughly match the fundraising pace of Democratic President Joe Biden who is seeking re-election, according to disclosures released on Sunday.

At the civil trial, Trump referred to an order on Monday that bars him from verbally attacking U.S. prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses in a separate criminal case in which he is accused of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss.

“My speech has been taken away from me. I’m a candidate that’s running for office, and I’m not allowed to speak. This is a railroading,” Trump said.

The order does not apply to the civil case, though Justice Arthur Engoron in that case had earlier imposed a gag order on Trump after the former president attacked a court clerk in a post on his Truth Social platform. The gag order bars Trump from speaking publicly about court staff.

Property valuations

The lawsuit by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges Trump reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten savings by overstating the value of his properties in documents he provided to banks.

Donna Kidder, an accountant for the Trump Organization, resumed her testimony Tuesday, describing the organization’s internal bookkeeping practices and preparation of financial statements.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and defended the valuations of his properties, saying the case is a “fraud” and attacking both James and the judge overseeing the case.

Trump told reporters outside the courtroom that the true values of his assets including his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida were “close to 100 times” what James’ office claimed.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, a star witness in the case, is expected to testify next week.

Engoron found in September that Trump had engaged in fraud and ordered the dissolution of companies that control crown jewels of his real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower in Manhattan. That ruling is on hold while Trump appeals.

The trial largely concerns damages. James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

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