In back-to-back testimonies Thursday, former President Trump’s two adult sons distanced themselves from Trump Organization financial statements key to the New York attorney general’s case against their family business.
Both Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump denied any involvement in their father’s financial statements, suggesting instead they relied on accountants and other experts to make sure the numbers were correct.
The Trump Organization’s statements of financial condition — which detail the value of its various assets and were sent to banks and insurers to secure loans and deals — are at the heart of the attorney general’s lawsuit, which claims the Trump Organization falsely inflated and deflated the value of its assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage.
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., testified Wednesday that he signed off on his father’s financial statements as an executive vice president of the Trump Organization and trustee of the trust that held Trump’s assets while he was president. However, he said he counted on the work of accountants and executives like then-Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to be correct.
“As a trustee, I have an obligation to listen [to] those who are expert — who have an expertise of these things,” Donald Trump Jr. said, The Associated Press reported.
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Eric Trump, the former president’s second son, also denied involvement, testifying that he “never had anything to do with the statement of financial condition.”
But state lawyer Andrew Amer later pointed to a 2013 email Eric Trump received from another company executive asking for information needed to fill out Trump’s financial statement, according to The Associated Press.
“So you did know about your father’s annual financial statement as of August 2013?” Amer asked.
“It appears that way,” Eric Trump said.
Trump’s legal team has so far attempted to shift the blame for the statements’ skewed numbers from the former president and his family onto the accountants who calculated them. Ex-Trump accountant Donald Bender testified under cross-examination for nearly a full week at the start of the trial, where Trump’s lawyers sought to portray him as negligent.
During an argument over questions Trump’s lawyers were asking Bender during the trial’s first week, Judge Arthur Engoron said that the accountant “is not on trial here.”
“I would disagree with that,” said Chris Kise, Trump’s attorney.
“His thoroughness, that he got paid millions a year to do — he was a [certified public accountant]. He has certain responsibilities … He seems to recall only what the government wants him to recall,” Kise continued.
“We need to be allowed to parse the evidence,” he said.
“You’re not allowed to waste time,” Engoran replied. “That is what this is becoming.”
Before the trial even began, Engoron found that Trump, the Trump Organization and Trump’s sons were liable for fraud after ruling that the New York attorney general’s office had proved the crux of its case.
The decision stripped some of Trump’s business licenses and put at risk some of his famed properties, though an appeals court halted the cancellation of the business licenses until after it hears his case.
The trial will determine how much money the defendants owe as a penalty and could establish whether any one defendant was more to blame than another for the fraud.
On Wednesday, an expert witness hired by the New York attorney general’s office testified that the Trump Organization’s ballooned financial statements may have cost banks more than $168 million in interest.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has asked for $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump and his children serving as officers or directors of New York companies.
Trump is expected to testify in the sprawling fraud trial next week.