Donald Trump Jr gives evidence again in New York civil fraud trial

14 November 2023, 12:04

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Trump Fraud Lawsuit. Picture: PA

Trump Jr said he never worked on the annual financial statements at the heart of New York attorney general Letitia James’ case.

Donald Trump Jr returned to give evidence on Monday as defence lawyers started calling witnesses in the New York civil fraud trial that threatens his father’s property empire.

Donald Trump’s eldest son returned two weeks after state lawyers questioned him during a long stretch of the trial that also featured evidence from the former president and Donald Trump Jr’s siblings Eric and Ivanka Trump.

“You thought you were rid of me, your honour,” he quipped in the witness box.

Trump Jr, a Trump Organisation executive vice president, originally gave evidence on November 1 and 2.

He said he never worked on the annual financial statements at the heart of New York attorney general Letitia James’ case.

He said he relied on the company’s long-time finance chief and outside accountants to verify their accuracy.

Ms James alleges that Donald Trump, his company and executives including his sons exaggerated his wealth by billions of dollars on financial statements given to banks, insurers and others.

The documents were used to secure loans and make deals.

James is seeking more than 300 million dollars (£245 million) in what she says were ill-gotten gains and a ban on defendants doing business in New York.

Before the trial, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that the defendants committed fraud by inflating his net worth and the value of assets on his financial statements.

He imposed a punishment that could strip Trump of marquee properties like Trump Tower, though an appeals court is allowing the former president to remain in control for now.

The Trumps have denied wrongdoing.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Donald Trump Jr with members of his legal team (Stefan Jeremiah/AP)

Their lawyers contend that the state failed to meet “any legal standard” to prove allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

The state rested its case last Wednesday after six weeks of evidence from more than two dozen witnesses, among them company insiders, accountants, bank officials and Trump’s fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen.

The trial is proceeding after Judge Engoron rebuffed the defence’s request last week to end it early through what is known as a directed verdict.

Judge Engoron did not rule on the request, but indicated the trial would move ahead as scheduled.

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise, seeking a verdict clearing Trump and other defendants, argued last Thursday that the state’s case involved only “successful and profitable loan transactions” and that “there is no victim. There is no complainant. There is no injury”.

After giving evidence in early November, Donald Trump Jr echoed his father’s claims that the case was “purely a political persecution” brought by Ms James, a Democrat, to blunt Trump’s chances as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Donald Trump Jr gave evidence earlier in November (Stefan Jeremiah/Pool/AP)

“I think it’s a truly scary precedent for New York, for me, for example, before even having a day in court, I’m apparently guilty of fraud for relying on my accountants to do, wait for it – accounting,” Trump Jr told reporters on November 2.

On Monday, Trump Jr was to be questioned first by the defence lawyers representing him, his father and other defendants.

A state lawyer is also expected to cross-examine him.

Trump Jr is expected to give evidence on Monday and Tuesday, followed by a tax lawyer who also gave evidence as a state witness.

The defence also plans to call several expert witnesses as part of their case in an attempt to refute testimony from state witnesses that Trump’s financial statements afforded him better loan terms and insurance premiums and were a factor in dealmaking.

When he became president in 2017, Donald Trump handed day-to-day management of his company to Eric and Donald Trump Jr and named Trump Jr as a trustee of a trust he established to hold his assets while in office.

In Donald Trump Jr’s prior evidence, when asked if he ever worked on his father’s “statement of financial condition”, he said: “Not that I recall.”

Trump Jr said he signed off on statements as a trustee, but left the work to outside accountants and the company’s then-finance chief and co-trustee, Allen Weisselberg.

“I had an obligation to listen to the people with intimate knowledge of those things,” he said.

“If they put something forward, I wasn’t working on the document, but if they tell me that it’s accurate, based on their accounting assessment of all of the materials – these people had an incredible intimate knowledge, and I relied on it.”

By Press Association

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