During a taped deposition ahead of a civil trial in New York on allegations of fraud, Donald Trump told state attorneys that he prevented a “nuclear holocaust” during his presidency and that the US “might have a nuclear war now” without him in the White House.
During his courtroom testimony on 6 November, Mr Trump lashed out at the judge overseeing the trial and the attorney general suing him as he defended his “brand” and business practices under fire in the case.
Months earlier, in a small conference room with attorneys for New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office claims the former president and his chief associates defrauded banks and investors over a decade, Mr Trump said he was “too busy… saving millions of lives” to worry about the business he entrusted to his three oldest children, according to footage released by the attorney general’s office.
“I was very busy. I considered this the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives. I think you would’ve had nuclear holocaust if I didn’t deal with North Korea. I think you would’ve had a nuclear war if I weren’t elected. And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth,” he said.
In the video, state attorney Kevin Wallace can be heard telling Mr Trump that he doesn’t want to spend “seven hours on nuclear war” before asking Mr Trump about his business during his time in the White House.
“I can virtually not think of anything,” Mr Trump replied before launching into a familiar tirade in defence of his properties.
A nearly 500-page transcript of Mr Trump’s seven-hour deposition was released last year. Video excerpts of the interview were made public by the attorney general’s office on Friday as the trial nears its conclusion.
The 2022 lawsuit from Ms James accuses Mr Trump, his two adult sons and their chief associates of defrauding financial institutions with grossly inflated estimates of his net worth and assets over a decade.
Judge Arthur Engoron’s pretrial judgment found the defendants liable for allegations of fraud outlined in the blockbuster suit, leaving a bench trial to determine how much Mr Trump and his associates should owe, and whether the attorney general is successful on other claims in her complaint, including insurance fraud and conspiracy.
Ms James’s office is seeking $370m in so-called “ill-gotten gains” from the result of fraudulently obtained financing terms that banks would have received if they used rates that reflected Mr Trump’s actual net worth and assets, according to her office.
Mr Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, arguing there was nothing fraudulent in the valuations provided to lenders, and that the banks were satisfied with the loans and payments.
They have also argued that the case is politically motivated and pursued by a Democratic attorney general with ambitions to defeat Mr Trump in court.
Mr Trump testified that the statements of financial condition at the centre of the case are “the opposite” of what the lawsuit alleges and that his allegedly inflated values for his properties omitted an unreported “brand value”.
“I became president because of my brand value. I sell books at levels that are incredible,” he said in November.
In remarks outside the courthouse after closing arguments concluded, Ms James told reporters that the trial has “shown the scope, scale, breadth and depth of illegality and fraud that enriched” the Trump family.
“At the end of the day the point is simple … no one is above the law,” she said. “The law applies to all of us equally.”