Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. both testified Thursday that they had no involvement with documents that a judge has ruled were fraudulently manipulated to inflate the value of their father Donald Trump's business.
In back-to-back appearances in a New York courtroom, Trump's adult sons both said they were not involved in the questionable valuations that now threaten to hobble the real estate empire that vaulted Trump to prominence. Trump put the two in charge of the business while he served as U.S. president from 2017 to 2021.
Donald Jr. blamed accountants, both inside and outside the company, who assembled the financial statements that were used to secure loans and insurance that allowed the company to keep functioning.
"They had more information and details on all of this than I would have," he said on the witness stand in the civil fraud trial stemming from a lawsuit filed by New York state Attorney General Letitia James.
Eric said he was not even aware that such documents existed.
"I didn't know anything about it, until this case came to fruition," he testified.
He grew flustered when his assertion was undercut by emails showing that he was asked to weigh in on underlying data that was used to compile the valuations.
"We're a massive real estate organization. Yes, I am fairly certain that we had financial statements," he said.
Neither son vouched for the accuracy of those valuations.
However, evidence submitted at trial shows that both sons signed statements certifying that they had provided accurate information to Mazars, the outside accounting firm that prepared the financial statements.
Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump, his two adult sons and the company fraudulently inflated asset values to win favorable financing terms.
Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has testified that Trump directed them to exaggerate the value of assets like Trump Tower in Manhattan in order to win better financing terms and bolster his reported net worth.
Donald Jr.'s genial, sometimes self-deprecating testimony stood in contrast to the aggressive persona he assumes in political appearances. "Make me look sexy," he told the courtroom sketch artist as he left the witness stand.
The elder Trump is scheduled to testify on Monday - the latest in many courtroom appearances by the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election.
James is seeking at least $250 million in damages, as well as a permanent ban on Trump, Donald Jr. and his son Eric from running businesses in the state.
Engoron has ordered the dissolution of companies that control pillars of Trump's real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower. That ruling is on hold while Trump appeals.
The trial is expected to last through December.
The former president has appeared several times to observe the proceedings and complain about the case to the TV cameras assembled in the hallway outside. Last week, he sat glowering at the defendant's table during Cohen's testimony.
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