Trump family on trial: five takeaways from a week in the New York fraud case

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The fifth week of the New York fraud trial of Donald Trump ended smack in the middle of a family affair and with another gag order for the combative Trump team.

Trump’s elder sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, took the witness stand in New York this week and testified they had little knowledge about the financial statements at the center of the case. Next week, Donald Trump is expected to take the stand on Monday, followed by daughter Ivanka Trump on Wednesday.

The New York attorney general’s office has been building its case that Trump, his adult sons and executives at the Trump Organization knowingly inflated the value of assets to boost the former president’s net worth when brokering deals. Judge Arthur Engoron ruled before the trial started that documents prove the family had fudged financial statements to do this. The trial has been about whether Trump will have to pay a fine of at least $250m for committing fraud.

It’s getting closer to the end. The attorney general’s office plans to rest its case against Trump after the family finishes testifying.

Here are five things we learned from the trial’s fraught fifth week.

The Trump family’s strategy: blame game

Over the three days that Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump testified on the witness stand, both brothers pointed to the company’s accountants and lawyers as responsible for handling the financial statements at the center of the case.

This is despite multiple emails and signed documents that show the brothers, who serve as top executives of their father’s company, were consulted by employees preparing the statements and brokered deals in which the statements were used to confirm Trump’s net worth.

Trump Jr said that they relied on the accountants Mazars to include accurate information in the statements, as they were “intimately involved” with the company’s finances.

“Mazars for 30 years was involved in every transaction, every LLC. They would have been a key point in anything that was related to accounting,” Trump Jr said.

It’s worth noting that Mazars USA dropped the Trump Organization as a client in 2022, and a representative from the firm, Donald Bender, who had worked closely with the Trump Organization, said earlier in the trial that he relied on the Trump Organization to give him accurate information.

Later that day, when Eric Trump took the stand, he similarly insisted that the company’s accountants and lawyers were in charge of the financial statements.

“I never had anything to do with the statements of financial condition,” Eric Trump said.

Prosecutors questioned Eric Trump about an appraisal for the Trump Organization by the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield for a conservation easement, or a type of tax break. Eric Trump said he had no recollection of the appraisal, though emails shown in court showed multiple meetings and emails he had had with the appraiser at the time in 2014.

“I really hadn’t been involved in the appraisal of the property,” Eric Trump said on the stand, appearing to grow frustrated. “You pointed out four interactions … I don’t recall McArdle [the appraiser] at all. I don’t think I was the main person involved.

“I don’t focus on appraisals, that’s not the focus of my day,” Eric Trump followed up, speaking quickly, saying that he was focused on construction and physical development of properties.

Trump’s elder sons signed multiple documents saying the company was giving fair and accurate information in its financial statements

Both of Trump’s adult sons denied ever working on the statements of financial condition. Eric Trump went so far as to imply that he only ever learned about the statement when the attorney general opened the case against the family. But multiple documents show both brothers signed off on deals that involved the use of the financial statements to confirm their father’s net worth.

Trump gave his sons power of attorney, meaning they could sign documents on his behalf, including bank certifications affirming the use of statements of financial conditions to verify Trump’s net worth and assets.

Responding to these certifications, Trump Jr said that he would have “signed a dozen of them during his time at the company”. When asked whether he signed the certifications with the intention that the banks would rely on the financial statements, Trump Jr said that he could not speak to the intent of the banks.

“I know a lot of bankers that do their own due diligence,” he said.

The next day, when a similar bank certification was pulled up for Eric Trump, he responded: “I don’t choose what the bank relies on” but said that he believed the statements were “absolutely accurate”.

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