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Deposition video shows Trump claiming he prevented "nuclear holocaust" as president

New video of Trump deposition shows him claiming he averted "nuclear holocaust"
New video of Trump deposition shows him claiming he averted "nuclear holocaust" 05:20

Combative, angry and prone to grandiose claims — newly unveiled footage of an April 2023 deposition gives a glimpse into how former President Donald Trump behaves when testifying under oath.

The video, released to CBS News on Friday in response to a freedom of information request, shows Trump claiming to have averted a "nuclear holocaust" and "saving millions of lives" as president. A transcript of the deposition was previously made public as an exhibit in Trump's New York civil fraud case.

Trump testified at trial on Nov. 6, and his testimony that day often mirrored the April deposition.

During the trial, Trump said he was too "busy in the White House" to worry about his businesses. "My threshold was China, Russia and keeping our country safe," he said.

It echoed a response he gave in his April 2023 testimony in a small conference room with New York Attorney General Letitia James. He went further that day, explaining just what he believes he kept Americans safe from:

New video of Trump deposition shows him claiming he averted "nuclear holocaust" 05:20

"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," Trump said.

Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for James' office, interjected. 

"I'm not going to use my seven hours on nuclear war," Wallace said, before asking if any business concerns arose during Trump's presidency.

"I can virtually not think of anything," Trump said at the start of a three-minute-long meandering reply in which he lauded many of his properties for being profitable and criticized "violent crime in the streets" of New York City.

Trump, his two adult sons and the Trump Organization were found liable for fraud before the case went to trial to resolve other allegations, including falsification of business records, conspiracy and insurance fraud. James' office is seeking $370 million and sanctions including a lifetime ban preventing Trump from working in New York real estate. The judge in the case has indicated he will issue his ruling in the coming weeks.

In both the deposition and in courtroom testimony, Trump often focused his ire on James and Wallace. On the stand in November, he called the case a "shame" and a "disgrace" while implying that he was being punished for his success. He used similar language during the deposition in April:

New video of Trump deposition shows him criticizing New York fraud case 01:24

"You don't have a case and you should drop this case. And it's a shame that somebody that's done such a good job, the Convention Center in New York, so many things I did for this city, the job on the west side of Manhattan, thousands of people employed," Trump said. "And now I have to come and justify myself to you. I have to come after doing all of that and paid massive taxes, state taxes, and city taxes. And now I have to come in here and justify myself, and have crowds of people waiting in the street. It's a disgrace."

The full seven-hour deposition closely parallels his in-court testimony. Trump said both times that he separated himself from his business and put his assets in a trust, while claiming to have gone further than President George Washington, who "had two desks … one for his business and one for running the country. I could have had that." (In 2019, when Trump first made his claim about Washington's desks, a historian at Mount Vernon said there was no evidence that it was true.)

One person missing from Trump's deposition is the presence of a judge. In Trump's trial testimony — and as recently as this week in a different case — Trump also pointed at the bench, claiming to be victimized by the jurists overseeing proceedings, calling them "unfair" and "biased."

Trump also targeted some other familiar foes in both the deposition and during the trial, including Forbes magazine. The publication revealed in 2017 that Trump and his company had vastly misrepresented the size of his triplex apartment in Trump Tower. 

At trial, James' office said the revelation caused the property's valuation to drop dramatically, prompting a crisis of sorts for executives who were looking to boost Trump's net worth. In his deposition, Trump pointed to the magazine's ownership to cast doubt on its reporting.

"Forbes doesn't know about us. Forbes, I read Forbes. You know, they're owned by China. They're owned by the Chinese, and they have their own agenda," Trump said, referring to an investment group based in Hong Kong that bought the magazine in 2014.

James' office alleged in the fraud case, and New York Judge Arthur Engoron agreed, that Trump and his company for years inflated the values of his properties and net worth as part of a scheme to convince banks and insurers to give them favorable terms on deals. Trump said, in both the deposition and in trial testimony, that — far from falsely inflating his net worth — in fact he underrepresented it. He insisted that his "brand value" makes him worth billions more than even his own financial statements reflect..

Exhibits shown during the trial indicated that in approving the loans at the center of the case, banks explicitly indicated they would not consider "brand value" when assessing Trump's finances. But that didn't stop Trump and his lawyers from often focusing on brand value anyway.

"Probably my most valuable asset I didn't even include on the statement and that's the brand. I didn't even include that. The brand — if I wanted to create a statement that was high, I would have put the brand on," Trump said.

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