Donald Trump Jr. returned to the stand Thursday to continue testifying in the Trumps’ New York civil fraud trial, one day after hewhile claiming little knowledge of the fraud the judge has already found them liable for.
Trump Jr. is the first of four Trumps who will, in which they’re squaring off with New York Attorney General Letitia James. Eric Trump is expected to begin testifying later Thursday. Donald Trump will testify Monday, and Ivanka Trump is scheduled to appear two days later.
The judge in the case has already found the Trumps and their company liable for fraud, determining that they inflated Trump’s wealth by billions of dollars, and many properties by hundreds of millions, in order to cut favorable deals with banks and insurers. James’ office says the Trumps profited by at least $250 million through the scheme.
The trial is proceeding over other allegations related to falsification of business records, conspiracy and insurance fraud, as well as to determine what, if any, penalties the Trumps and their companies will face.
As he arrived at court Thursday, a CBS News reporter asked Trump Jr. what he expected from day two of his testimony. He put two thumbs up and said, “I’ll tell you in an hour.”
Trump Jr.’s first day of testimony
Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, was first called to the stand Wednesday afternoon, when he testified for just under 90 minutes.
Though mostly serious, he peppered his responses with occasional jokes, at one point apologizing for talking too fast.
“I apologize, Your Honor, I moved to Florida, but I kept the New York pace,” he said.
An executive vice president at the Trump Organization, Trump Jr. said he worked in “an all-encompassing developmental role,” but also said he couldn’t recall much about a key moment in the company’s history: when Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer and one of his father’s most trusted employees for nearly 50 years, agreed to a $2 million severance earlier this year just before going to jail for fraud.
Trump Jr. ultimately laid the blame for the fraud the company is accused of — a decade-long scheme that enriched the family by more than $250 million, according to James’ office — at the feet of Weisselberg and the company’s outside accountants.
“I signed off on a document that Mazars prepared with intimate knowledge, and as a trustee I have an obligation to listen to those who are experts, who have an expertise of these things,” Trump Jr. said. “So I trust in Allen Weisselberg who is an accountant. I trust Mazars who is a CPA and a big five accounting firm to put together a document of this nature.”
“These people had an incredible, intimate knowledge and I relied on them,” he added later.
Trump Jr.’s work at the company involved many of the properties and deals that are a focus of the case, including the financing and development of Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago, and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, as well as commercial leasing deals at properties including Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.
On Wednesday, he said he viewed his primary responsibility as overseeing the company’s overseas branding and hotel deals, which he said were largely put on ice during his father’s presidency.
After his father was elected president, Trump Jr. was also given the task of signing off on his father’s— documents the attorney general claims, and the judge has agreed, were key to fraudulently inflating the values of company properties and the size of Donald Trump’s wealth.
The defendants have all denied wrongdoing in the case, and the Trumps have all accused James — an elected Democratic official — of pursuing them for political gain.
The lawsuit against the Trumps and their company is seeking $250 million and sanctions designed to limit their ability to do business in New York, including permanently barring Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any business in the state.
Cassandra Gauthier contributed reporting.