Donald Trump Jr. testified Wednesday that he never worked on his father's financial statements, the documents at the heart of the civil fraud trial that threatens former President Donald Trump’s real estate empire.
The ex-president's eldest son is an executive vice president of the family's Trump Organization and has been a trustee of a trust set set up to hold its assets when his father was in the White House. But when the son was asked whether he had ever worked on his father's “statement of financial condition” in any year, the scion said: “Not that I recall.”
The lawsuit centers on whether the former president and his business misled banks and insurers by inflating his net worth on the financial statements. He and other defendants, including sons Donald Jr. and Eric, deny wrongdoing.
Donald Trump Jr. said he signed off on statements as a trustee, but had left the work to outside accountants and the company's then-finance chief, 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.”
The first family member to testify, Donald Trump Jr. greeted the scene with a quip. “I should have worn makeup,” he jested as news photographers took his photo.
He seemed at ease as a lawyer for New York state asked him opening questions about his education and career at the family business. He made some lighthearted asides — for instance, when asked whether he belonged to an accountants organization, he replied, “Sounds very exciting, but no.”
The ex-president’s eldest son is kicking off a blockbuster stretch as the trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit enters its second month.
James, a Democrat, alleges that Donald Trump, his company and top executives, including sons Eric and Donald Jr., conspired to exaggerate his wealth by billions of dollars on his financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to secure loans and make deals.
Eric Trump is expected to take the stand next. Then the former president, family patriarch and 2024 Republican front-runner is slated for Monday. State lawyers have also expected to call his eldest daughter, ex-Trump Organization executive and White House adviser Ivanka Trump, as their final witness on Nov. 8. On Wednesday, her lawyer filed an appeal challenging a judge’s decision to require her testimony.
Both of the ex-president's eldest sons are executive vice presidents at the Trump Organization. Eric Trump has oversight over the company's operations, while his brother has been involved in running the company’s property development.
Before the trial, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that the former president's financial statements were fraudulent. He ordered that a court-appointed receiver seize control of some of his companies — potentially stripping him and his family of such marquee properties as Trump Tower — though an appeals court has halted enforcement for now.
Like their father, both brothers have denied wrongdoing.
Eric Trump has spent several days at the trial, often on the days his father has been there. He’s commented sporadically, mostly on social media. On Oct. 5, he posted a video montage to Truth Social of James criticizing his father. With it, he wrote: “This is the corruption my father and our family is fighting! The system is weaponized, broken and disgusting!”
Donald Trump Jr. hadn't been to court before Wednesday, but since testimony began Oct. 2, he’s repeatedly denounced the case and Engoron as a “kangaroo court.” State law doesn’t allow for juries in this type of lawsuit, so Engoron will decide the case.
“It doesn’t matter what the rules are, it doesn’t matter what the Constitution says, it doesn’t matter what general practices and business would be,” Donald Trump Jr. said Monday on Newsmax. “It doesn’t matter. They have a narrative, they have an end goal, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”
Donald Trump blasted Engoron Wednesday on Truth Social as a Trump-hating “political hack” who's “doing the dirty work for the Democrat Party.”
“Leave my children alone, Engoron. You are a disgrace to the legal profession!” Trump wrote in one of several posts.
Building to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump’s testimony, state lawyers have asked other witnesses about their roles leading the Trump Organization and their involvement, over the years, in valuing their father’s properties and preparing his financial statements. Their names have also appeared on various emails and documents entered into evidence.
David McArdle, an appraiser at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, testified that Eric Trump had substantial input on valuing planned-but-never-built townhomes at a Trump-owned golf course in the New York City suburbs. McArdle said Eric Trump arrived at a “more lofty value” than he did for the project but that going with the scion’s higher number wouldn’t have been credible.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have already been heard from at the trial, albeit in snippets of prior testimony. During opening statements on Oct. 2, state lawyers showed about a minute each from sworn depositions the brothers gave in the case.
In his July 2022 clip, Donald Trump Jr. testified about his scant knowledge of the accounting standards known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — which state lawyers say were used at times and disregarded at others in preparing Donald Trump’s financial statements.
Trump Jr., who's never been an accountant, said he couldn't recall having to use the GAAP standards in his work. He got a laugh out of a state lawyer when he said he'd learned about them “probably in Accounting 101 at Wharton" but didn't remember much other than that they were “generally accepted.”
In his March 2023 deposition, Eric Trump testified, “I don’t think I’ve had any involvement in the Statement of Financial Condition, to the best of my knowledge.” He appeared to minimize his role as a top company executive, testifying that he tried to remain “siloed into the things I care and are passionate about" while sharing management responsibilities with his brother.
“I’m a construction, concrete and on-the-ground operations guy,” Eric Trump said, according to a deposition transcript posted on the case docket.
Questioned at another point about decision-making earlier in his career, Eric Trump said: “I pour concrete. I operate properties. I don’t focus on appraisals between a law firm and Cushman. This is just not what I do in my day-to-day responsibilities.”
Donald Trump attended the trial’s first three days in early October and showed up again for four days in the past two weeks, but his campaign schedule suggests it’s unlikely he'll return to see his sons testify.
In his past appearances, Trump groused to TV cameras outside court, calling the case a “sham,” a “scam,” and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.” He also angered the judge twice, incurring $15,000 in fines for violating a limited gag order with comments about a member of the court staff.
Editor’s note: Updates with Donald Trump Jr. saying he never worked on his father's financial statements, which are at heart of the case; edits to conform.