(NEW YORK) — The Trump Organization’s $250 million civil fraud trial will become a family affair Wednesday when Donald Trump Jr. becomes the first of former President Donald Trump’s children to take the witness stand.
The trial, which is in its fifth week, centers on allegations that Donald Trump and his business fraudulently inflated his net worth to get better loans, secure insurance deals and burnish his reputation as a highly successful businessman.
Trump, who has blasted the trial as being politically motivated, denies all wrongdoing and has appealed a pretrial ruling that he used fraudulent statements to do business.
New York Attorney General Letitia James initially named the three Trump children who served as Trump Organization executive vice presidents — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as defendants in her lawsuit, alleging that they were “intimately involved” in operating the family’s business.
“The public desire to inflate his net worth was well known amongst his children,” James alleged in her complaint.
Ivanka Trump was subsequently dismissed from the AG’s lawsuit in June because she was no longer with the firm by 2016.
The three children are each scheduled to testify in the trial over the coming week, beginning with Donald Trump Jr. and possibly Eric Trump on Wednesday. Donald Trump is currently scheduled to testify on Monday, and Ivanka Trump will serve as the state’s final witness next Wednesday.
An ardent defender of his father on the campaign trail and on social media, Trump Jr. is expected to face questions about his role managing Trump’s revocable trust — the mechanism his father used to prevent potential business conflicts while he was president.
In that capacity, Trump Jr. certified the accuracy of financial statements between 2016 and 2021, each of which is alleged by the attorney general to have been inflated.
James alleges that Trump Jr. was particularly involved in the commercial leasing of 40 Wall Street — one of the properties that Judge Arthur Engoron has already decided was overvalued in Trump’s financial statements by more than $300 million.
Trump Jr. could also face questions about why financial statements allegedly inflated the value of rent-stabilized units in the Trump Park Avenue building by 700%, ignoring the fixed rent of the units’ low-income residents. According to James, Trump Jr. remarked that the rent-stabilized tenants in Trump’s Park Avenue Building were “the bane of [his] existence for quite some time.”
When co-defendants and former Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney took the stand earlier in the trial, both said that Trump Jr. was not personally involved in the preparation of his father’s statement of financial condition — the allegedly fraudulent document that underpins the state’s case.
“There was never a material misrepresentation made by Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr,” their lawyer Clifford Robert said during his opening statement.
However, Weisselberg also testified that Trump Jr. and his siblings became more involved in running the Trump Organization once their father became president in 2016, and that they received documents showing the internal finances of the company.
“They wanted to get up to speed on how the business was running,” Weisselberg testified.
Emails from Trump Jr. have been included in evidence presented during the trial, including a 2017 email chain from the Trump Organization’s general counsel about the value of Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower.
The forwarded email included a list of issues raised by a Forbes magazine reporter about Trump’s financial claims, including Trump’s claim that his penthouse was three times larger than its actual size of 10,996 square feet.
“Insane amount of stuff there,” Trump Jr. replied to the email.
Despite the error being called out, Trump Jr. and Weissberg still signed off on Trump’s 2016 financial statement that falsely claimed Trump’s triplex was 30,000 square feet and worth $327 million.
Ahead of his testimony, Trump Jr. has criticized the trial as a “sham” being held in a “kangaroo court.”
“It doesn’t matter what general practices and business will be. It doesn’t matter,” Trump Jr. said in a Monday interview with Newsmax.
“They have a narrative, they have an end goal, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there,” he said, referring to the New York attorney general’s office.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.