Donald Trump Jr gets another turn in the spotlight at NY fraud trial

Don Jr and his brother Eric already gave testimony in civil case

Rachel Sharp
Friday 10 November 2023 07:55 EST
‘I should have worn makeup’: Donald Trump Jr appears in court in father's civil fraud trial

Donald Trump’s legal team have now revealed who will be the first witness called for the defence in the civil fraud trial in New York.

The former president’s son Donald Trump Jr will take the stand on Monday morning for what marks the start of the defence’s case as they seek to prevent the Trump family business empire from being toppled in the Big Apple.

Don Jr has already taken to the stand once in the case as a witness for New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office on 2 and 3 November, where he struggled to remember much about his role at the Trump Organization.

During courtroom testimony, he denied knowledge of the fraudulent financial statements at the heart of the $250m case – pushing the responsibility onto accountants who he said “had an incredible, intimate knowledge” of the documents.

“I relied on them,” he said on the stand.

His denials of involvement came despite Don Jr and Eric being appointed to run the Trump Organization from Janauary 2017, when their father entered the White House. Don Jr was specifically appointed as a trustee of his father’s trust.

The Trump legal team did not cross-examine him at the time.

Mr Trump’s other adult son Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and the former president himself also gave testimony before the AG’s office rested its case on Wednesday.

During his testimony, Mr Trump repeatedly lashed out at AG James and the judge himself.

After repeated warnings to answer the questions rather than launch into monologues hitting out at the case, the judge warned the former president’s legal team to “control your client”.

“I do not want to hear everything this witness has to say. He has a lot to say that has nothing to do with the case or the questions,” he said at one point, warning Mr Trump to stop using the courtroom as a “political rally”.

Amid his claims that he had been targeted for “political reasons”, Mr Trump told the court that he believes Mar-a-Lago is worth between $1bn and $5bn – grossly higher than the $350m estimate by Forbes.

He also downplayed the fraudulent financial statements which inflated his business assets – statements at the heart of the case – as “worthless” while also downplaying his involvement in them.

Donald Trump Jr arrives at New York Supreme Court to testify on 2 November

Ivanka Trump was the fourth and final family member – and the last prosecution witness – to testify on Wednesday, before the defence begins its case on Monday.

Ivanka succeeded in having herself removed as a defendant in the $250m civil fraud case earlier this year but was still required to give testimony under oath after the AG’s office said she played a key role in some of the issues at play in the case due to her time working for the Trump Organization.

On Thursday, Judge Arthur Engoron said that he would allow all of the defence witnesses to take the stand.

While this came as a blow to the AG’s office who asked that four of the defence’s expert witnesses be blocked, the judge said that he wanted to rule out any potential for a retrial and so was going down “the path of least resistance”.

“One of my goals here is I don’t want a retrial in this case. I don’t want to be reversed,” he said.

Despite this one small win, the judge also indicated that he will deny the defence’s request for a directed verdict in the case – a ruling which would clear Mr Trump and his codefendants of wrongdoing.

The former president’s attorneys argued that the state has failed to prove its allegations, slamming the trial “a waste of taxpayer dollars”.

While the judge is yet to issue a ruling on the matter, it appears unlikely he will side with the former president having already ruled that fraudulent business activities did take place at the Trump Organization.

AG James filed a civil lawsuit in September 2022 accusing Mr Trump, his adult sons Don Jr and Eric, the Trump Organization and several executives of widespread business fraud including overinflating the company’s value for years.

Mr Trump has already been found liable for fraud – in a bombshell ruling from the judge just days before the case was headed to trial.

Judge Engoron ruled that Mr Trump, his adult sons, businesses and some of their executives “grossly and materially inflated” the value of the Trump Organization’s assets for more than a decade.

By deceiving banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets, the company was able to secure more favourable business deals and loans, the judge found.

Now, the judge will determine what penalties Mr Trump should face.

AG James is seeking $250m in penalties from Mr Trump and for him to be banned from doing business in New York – something that would be a major blow to his business empire and see his namesake buildings like Trump Tower shutter.

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