Donald Trump Jr. to be defense's first witness in New York fraud trial

Donald Trump Jr. will be called back to the stand Monday in his family’s New York civil fraud trial, an attorney for the Trumps said in court Thursday.

Trump Jr. was previously called to the stand on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, when he testified that the Trump Organization’s internal and outside accountants were responsible for the financial statements at the center of the $250 million fraud case.

“These people had an incredible, intimate knowledge and I relied on them,” Trump Jr. said on the stand. 

One accountant who testified earlier in the trial said his firm relied on the Trumps’ company to provide accurate data for the financial statements. In 2022, the firm recanted the documents, citing New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fraud investigation.

The defense did not question Trump Jr. at the time. He was one of more than 20 witnesses called by lawyers for the state over the first month of the trial. His siblings Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump were also called to the stand, as was their father, former President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump Jr. arrives at New York State Supreme Court in New York on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.
Donald Trump Jr. arrives at New York State Supreme Court in New York on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The three younger Trumps all downplayed their connection to so-called statements of financial condition for their father, documents that the judge in the case has already ruled were rife with fraud. Judge Arthur Engoron concluded in a Sept. 26 pretrial ruling that the documents overstated Trump’s wealth by billions of dollars, and the value of certain properties by hundreds of millions. James’ office is arguing that allowed his family and company to cut deals with banks and insurers on significantly better terms than the Trumps otherwise would have received.

Trump and his co-defendants — his two oldest sons, several Trump Organization executives and the company itself — have all denied wrongdoing. The judge has already found them liable for fraud, and the trial is proceeding on other allegations, including falsification of business records and conspiracy. The judge is also being asked to determine “disgorgement,” or the amount the state should receive for “ill-gotten” gains.

During the former president’s testimony on Monday, he emphasized a disclaimer in the financial documents that he said absolved him of responsibility — an argument Engoron has already rejected. While cross-examining Ivanka Trump on Wednesday, the defense argued that at least one firm, Deutsche Bank, gave the Trump family exceptional terms on deals because the bank wanted to cultivate a relationship with their company, not because they were misled about Trump’s finances.

Over the course of the trial, now in its second month, Trump has often feuded with Engoron, pointing at the judge during his testimony and calling him a “fraud.” Engoron has twice fined Trump for violating a limited gag order put in place after Trump made a derogatory social media post about Engoron’s law clerk.

But on Thursday, Engoron sided with Trump in a dispute over defense witnesses.

The state asked the judge to block four expert witnesses for the defense from testifying, saying they would cover material that the judge has already ruled on and waste the court’s time. Engoron denied the state’s motion, saying he was taking “the path of least resistance.”

“One of my goals here is I don’t want a retrial in this case. I don’t want to be reversed,” Engoron said.

Engoron also indicated that he would deny a motion by the defense for a “directed” verdict, which would essentially halt the case and find that the state failed to prove its allegations. He has yet to formally rule on the matter.

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