Trump Jr. testifies again in $250 million fraud trial

Donald Trump Jr., former President Donald Trump’s son, enters New York State Supreme Court for his civil fraud trial on November 13, 2023 in New York City. 

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr. took a breezy turn on the witness stand Monday to kick off the defense’s case in the $250 million civil fraud trial taking aim at former president Donald Trump‘s New York business empire.

Defense attorneys spent much of their time asking about the Trump Organization’s wide portfolio of properties, and Trump Jr. took the opportunity to boast at length about the company’s hotels, golf courses and high-rise buildings.

Trump Jr.’s testimony offered little to directly counter the claims at the heart of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case accusing him, his father and other co-defendants of committing years of business fraud.

The defense lawyers began laying out their case four days after failing in their latest bid to have James’ fraud claims thrown out.

James accuses Trump Sr., his adult sons Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and its top executives of fraudulently inflating the values of Trump’s assets in order to boost his net worth and reap an array of financial benefits.

The AG seeks around $250 million in damages and wants to permanently bar Trump and his sons, who took over the Trump Organization after their father became president in 2017, from running another New York business.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are liable for fraudulently misstating the values of real estate properties and other assets on Trump’s financial records. Engoron’s pretrial ruling also ordered the cancellation of the defendants’ New York business certificates, though an appeals court has temporarily blocked that order from taking effect.

The trial, which is being conducted without a jury, will determine penalties and resolve other claims in James’ lawsuit.

State lawyers rested their case in chief last week, following testimony from Trump and three of his adult children. Ivanka Trump, who in June was dismissed as a defendant by an appeals court, was the last of more than two dozen witnesses questioned by the state.

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In his first round on the stand in early November, Trump Jr. testified that he was not involved in preparing the so-called “statements of financial condition” at the heart of James’ case. He said he relied on accountants employed by the company, primarily Donald Bender, a former Trump family accountant.

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

Trump Jr. was expected to face questions on Monday and Tuesday. But he was dismissed on Monday afternoon, and the defense called Trump tax lawyer Sheri Dillon back up to the stand.

Last week, defense lawyers requested to have the case thrown out, arguing that the AG’s office had not established any victim or injury in the case. They pointed to the fact that the loans obtained via the disputed financial statements were paid back on time and with interest.

Engoron has already rejected this argument, saying last month that the case contained enough evidence to “fill the courtroom.”

Trump and his allies have attacked Engoron at length in and out of the courtroom. Trump complained about the judge, saying he “always rules against me” and calling the trial “unfair,” while sitting next to him during his sworn testimony last week.

On Friday, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik filed an ethics complaint calling for Engoron’s removal from the case.

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