Trump fraud trial: Donald Trump Jr. testifies

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son and co-defendant, Donald Trump Jr., arrives to attend the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 1, 2023.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son and co-defendant of former President Donald Trump, testified Wednesday that he did not remember working on financial statements at the heart of the $250 million New York civil fraud trial of him and his father, brother and business.

Taking the witness stand for the first time, Trump Jr. said that he relied on the expertise of outside accounting firm Mazars, and on Donald Bender, a former Trump family accountant, according to NBC News.

Bender already testified that the information he used to assemble the financial statements was provided by the Trump Organization.

New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges the defendants falsely inflated the values of Trump’s real estate properties and other assets by billions of dollars a year in order to get various financial perks, including tax benefits and better loan terms.

Wednesday’s testimony gave James’ team their first chance in the trial to grill a member of the Trump family about how their closely held real estate empire operates.

Trump Jr.’s testimony in Manhattan Supreme Court was expected to continue Thursday.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son and co-defendant, Donald Trump Jr., attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 1, 2023.

Alec Tabak | Reuters

Trump Jr. and his brother Eric Trump took control of the Trump Organization as executive vice presidents when their father was elected president in 2017. Ahead of the trial, they both gave sworn depositions in which they downplayed their involvement in creating the financial statements that the attorney general says were fraudulent.

Trump Jr. was the first of four members of the Trump family expected to testify in the trial.

Trump Sr. lashed out at Judge Arthur Engoron in a Truth Social post early Wednesday morning. Engoron will deliver the verdicts in the no-jury trial.

“Leave my children alone, Engoron,” the former president posted at 2:28 a.m. ET. “You are a disgrace to the legal profession!”

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In addition to seeking around a quarter of a billion dollars in damages, James wants to permanently bar Trump Sr. and his sons Donald and Eric from running a New York business.

Engoron has already found the defendants liable for fraud and ordered the cancellation of their New York business certificates. The trial will resolve six other claims alleged by James.

Judge Arthur Engoron presides during the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 1, 2023 in this courtroom sketch. 

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Trump Jr.’s testimony will be followed by Eric Trump’s on Thursday, according to a schedule from the attorney general’s office. The former president is expected to testify Monday.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who was removed as a defendant on statute-of-limitations grounds by a New York appeals court earlier this year, is set to take the stand Nov. 8.

In a surprise move last week, Engoron ordered the former president to the stand to be questioned about his remarks outside the courtroom, which Engoron considered to be a violation of his gag order on Trump.

Trump in that brief testimony denied that he was referring to the judge’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, when he complained to reporters about “a very partisan judge with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him.” Trump had previously been ordered not to make public statements about Engoron’s staff, after he attacked Greenfield in a social media post.

Engoron did not believe him, saying in a written order that his testimony rang “hollow and untrue.” Trump has now been fined a total of $15,000 for two violations of the gag order.

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