Trump sons grilled on stand in New York civil fraud trial

The New York attorney general is seeking to question former president Donald Trump (C), da

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump testified on Thursday in the New York case against the family real estate business and blamed accountants for company financial statements the authorities say were fraudulent.

The former president’s two eldest sons were the first members of the Trump family to testify in the trial in which the Trump Organization is accused of inflating the value of its assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

Don Jr and Eric Trump are both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, a sprawling network of companies managing residential buildings, office skyscrapers, luxury hotels and golf courses around the world.

Don Jr, 45, dressed like his brother in a dark blue suit and light blue tie with slicked back hair, was the first to take the stand and he testified that while he signed off on financial statements he relied on the expertise of accountants for their accuracy.

His testimony was followed by that of his younger brother Eric, 39, who had a more difficult time under intense questioning from Andrew Amer, a lawyer with the New York attorney general’s office, which brought the case.

“I don’t think I ever saw or worked on a statement of financial condition,” Eric Trump said at the outset.

He was then forced to walk that back after Amer displayed an August 2013 email in which a colleague told Eric Trump he was “working on the notes to Mr. Trump’s annual financial statement” and asked for information about the status of golf courses.

“We’re a massive real estate organization,” Eric Trump said, his voice rising. “Certainly, we have financial statements.”

Like his brother, Eric Trump went on say that he relied on accounting firms to vouch for the information in financial records provided to lenders and others.

Former president Trump is expected to testify on Monday, a day shy of the one-year mark before the November 5, 2024, presidential election that he hopes will sweep him back into the White House.

If the 77-year-old former president takes the stand, it will be the first time he testifies publicly in any of the various civil and criminal cases facing him.

The former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who left the Trump Organization in 2017 to become a White House advisor to her father, is not a codefendant in the case but has also been ordered to testify. She has appealed the subpoena.

‘Political persecution’

Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Don Jr denounced the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, as a “political persecution.”

“The banks in question made hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “They are not claiming that they are victims..”

“I’m apparently guilty of fraud for relying on my accountant to do — wait for it -– accounting,” he said.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the case, has already ruled that Trump, his sons and other senior executives of the Trump Organization committed fraud and the trial is being held to determine penalties and potential sanctions.

Trump’s apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower is among the properties the judge found were falsely overvalued. Its square footage was given as 30,000 square feet when it is actually 10,996 square feet.

Trump and his sons do not risk going to jail in the civil fraud case, but face up to $250 million in penalties and potential removal from the management of the family company.

Trump is not required to attend the trial, but he has shown up sporadically, using his appearances to portray himself as the victim of what he claims is a Democratic plot to derail his White House campaign.

The civil fraud trial is one of several legal battles Trump faces as he seeks to recapture the presidency.

He is to go on trial in Washington in March for conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Florida in May on charges of mishandling top secret government documents.

The twice-impeached former president also faces racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state after his 2020 defeat by Democrat Joe Biden.


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