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Donald Trump Jr waits to testify in New York Supreme Court. Alamy Stock Photo
New York

Donald Trump Jr tells judge he's not involved in financial papers at centre of civil fraud trial

Donald Trump Jr and his brother Eric Trump, who is also expected to testify this week, are both vice presidents of the Trump Organization.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 2nd 2023, 8:54 AM

DONALD TRUMP JR, the former US president’s eldest son, has told the judge in the civil fraud trial that threatens the family real estate business in New York that he had not been involved in the financial documents at the center of the prosecution.

Don Jr, 45, is the first member of the Trump family to testify in the case in which the Trump Organization is accused of inflating the value of its assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

Don Jr’s younger brother, Eric Trump, 39, is also expected to testify this week and the former president himself may be questioned on Monday, a day shy of one year before the 5 November 2024 presidential election that he hopes will sweep him back into the White House.

In a dark blue suit, light-colored shirt and pink tie, Don Jr confirmed his role at the top of the Trump Organization, a myriad of companies managing residential and office skyscrapers, luxury hotels and golf courses around the world.

State attorney Colleen Faherty asked him who took over the Trump Organization once his father entered the White House in January 2017.

“A combination of myself, my brother (Eric) and Allen Weisselberg,” the former chief financial officer who was sentenced in 2022 to time served for tax fraud, Don Trump replied, appearing at ease.

But he also presented himself as unfamiliar with accounting principles in the annual financial statements since 2016 that offer a snapshot of the family business, and are the heart of the state attorney’s case. Trump Jr explained that he had put his trust in their accounting firm, Mazars.

“I wasn’t involved in the compilation of this statement,” he said. “The accountants worked on it. That’s what we paid them to do.”

new-york-united-states-01st-nov-2023-donald-trump-jr-sits-in-the-courtroom-ready-to-testify-in-the-fifth-week-of-the-civil-fraud-trial-against-his-father-former-president-donald-trump-at-state-su Donald Trump Jr sits in the courtroom ready to testify in the fifth week of the civil fraud trial against his father, former US President Donald Trump. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

If the 77-year-old Trump takes the stand in the Manhattan courtroom where the trial is taking place it will be the first time he testifies publicly in any of the various civil and criminal cases facing him.

The former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who left the Trump Organization in 2017 to become a White House advisor to her father, is not a codefendant in the case but has also been ordered to testify. She has appealed the subpoena.

The court adjourned for the day before Don Jr finished testifying. He is to return to the stand on Thursday.

The former president and his sons do not risk going to jail in the fraud case brought by New York state attorney general, but face up to $250 million in penalties and potential removal from management of the family company.

‘Leave my children alone’

Prior to his son’s testimony, Trump lashed out at Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the case, and told him to “leave my children alone”.

In a series of posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump called the judge a “political hack” who is “doing the dirty work for the Democrat Party.”

“Engoron is crazy, totally unhinged, and dangerous,” the former president said of the judge, who has already ruled that Trump, his sons and other senior executives of the Trump Organization committed fraud.

“Leave my children alone, Engoron,” Trump said. “You are a disgrace to the legal profession!”

Trump said he would appeal a partial gag order imposed by Engoron on 3 October that bars him from attacking court staff – though not the judge himself.

Engoron has fined the former president twice already – $5,000 and $10,000 – for violating the order by attacking his law clerk.

Trump is not required to attend the trial, but he has shown up sporadically, using his appearances to portray himself as the victim of what he claims is a Democratic plot to derail his White House campaign.

The civil fraud trial is one of several legal battles facing Trump as he seeks to recapture the presidency.

He is to go on trial in Washington in March for conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in Florida in May on charges of mishandling top secret government documents.

The twice-impeached former president also faces racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state after his 2020 defeat by Democrat Joe Biden. 

© AFP 2023