Donald Trump Jr. back on the witness stand in N.Y. civil fraud trial – NBC News
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Donald Trump Jr. returned to the witness stand Monday as lawyers of former President Donald Trump began presenting their case in the $250 million civil fraud trial that poses threats to the Trump family’s real estate empire.
“You thought you were rid of me, your honor,” Trump Jr. told Judge Arthur Engoron as he began to testify in the case for the second time in two weeks.
“I’d say it’s good to be here, your honor, but I think the attorney general would sue me for perjury,” he quipped later.
Asked for an overview of the family company, the Trump Organization, Trump Jr. described it as “an international organization” that’s “run like a mom-and-pop.” He then gave an extensive rundown of its various holdings, including Trump Tower in Manhattan, Mar-a-Lago in Florida and various golf courses. He praised his father’s “vision” and at times seemed to emulate the former president’s speech patterns, referring to various properties as “amazing,” “spectacular” and “incredible.”
Trump Jr. also talked about the power structure at the Trump Organization before his father became president. “There is my father” and then “everyone else,” he said. He also described the company, which is now run by him and his brother, as a “meritocracy.” “You need to deliver results, and he gave a lot of people opportunities,” he said of his father.
Asked about the company’s plans for the future, he said, much of it has to do with “what happens next November” and “whether we are sued into oblivion for the foreseeable future.”
During cross-examination, Colleen Faherty of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office brought up two of the properties Trump Jr. had gushed about in his direct testimony, a building at 40 Wall St. in Manhattan and a Trump hotel in Hawaii. Faherty asked Trump Jr. whether he was aware the Wall Street property had been on a watchlist since February because of an increased number of vacancies. He said he was not aware.
She then asked whether he knew the owner of the hotel in Hawaii was removing the Trump name from the property.
“If they want to buy it out for millions of dollars, then we are OK with that,” he said.
Afterward, Trump Jr. told reporters he thought the cross-examination was “boring” and maintained that the case is a politically motivated “witch hunt.” “It always has been,” he said. Asked by NBC News whether he still planned to appeal Engoron’s pretrial ruling that the company had engaged in repeated fraud, he said, “I have to.”
Trump Jr. was the first witness for the defense. His testimony was followed that of by Sheri Dillon, one of Trump’s tax attorneys.
Trump Jr.’s younger brother Eric Trump and his father are expected to be back on the stand later as the defense presents its case.
None were cross-examined by the defense after their initial testimony. Testifying as defense witnesses gives their attorneys greater leeway in their questioning and allows them to control the narrative of their testimony, although each will be subject to cross-examination by the AG’s office.
Trump attorney Chris Kise has said he expects they’ll wrap up their presentation by Dec. 15.
Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday while reserving the right to recall Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer. Weisselberg and the company were hit with tax fraud charges in 2021 by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Weisselberg pleaded guilty, and the company was convicted at trial.
Upon entering the Oval Office in 2017, Trump handed off management of his company to his adult sons and named Trump Jr. as a trustee.
Trump Jr. took the stand earlier this month, answering questions about his role at the Trump Organization and the degree of his involvement in financial statements that James’ office alleges were inflated to benefit the company. The former president, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump also testified this month.
James alleges the Trumps have been engaged in a yearslong scheme of exaggerating their business assets. Engoron, who is presiding over the nonjury trial in Manhattan, partly sided with James’ office in a ruling in September, finding that the Trumps had repeatedly committed acts of fraud for years.
The Trumps have denied wrongdoing against the allegations that they inflated the company’s net worth by billions of dollars on financial statements, with the former president repeatedly claiming the case is a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
Trump testified that any errors in the statements were “nonmaterial.”
“I think that the statements of financial condition were very good, were actually somewhat conservative and in some cases very conservative,” Trump said, claiming that some properties were actually worth even more than what was listed in his financial statements, which he said were prepared by his accountants.
Both Trump Jr. and Eric Trump testified that they barely had any involvement with the annual financial statements of the company, which they had signed. They said they relied on the accounting firm they had hired.
“I rely on the accountants,” Trump Jr. said. “They were intimately involved in every aspect” of the statements.
Eric Trump claimed similarly when he was asked during his testimony what due diligence he performed on the financial statements: “I relied on a very big accounting office. I relied on one of the biggest accounting firms in the country. And I relied on a great legal team, and when they gave me comfort that the statement was perfect, I was more than happy to execute it.”
Ivanka Trump also denied involvement with her father’s financial statements and claimed she lacked insight into their preparation. “I would assume he would have personal financial statements that he would work on with his own accountants, but those weren’t things that I was privy to,” she said, adding that “it was not something that I was involved in.”
Summer Concepcion is a politics reporter for NBC News.
Adam Reiss is a reporter and producer for NBC and MSNBC.
Chloe Atkins reports for the NBC News Investigative Unit, based in New York. She frequently covers crime and courts, as well as the intersection of reproductive health, politics and policy.
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