Donald Trump Jr., former President Donald Trump’s son, enters New York State Supreme Court for his civil fraud trial on November 13, 2023 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr. returned to the witness stand Monday as the defense kicks off its case in the $250 million civil fraud trial taking aim at former president Donald Trump’s New York business empire.
Defense attorneys began laying out their case four days after failing in their latest bid to have New York Attorney General Letitia James’ fraud claims thrown out.
James accuses Trump Sr., his adult sons Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and its top executives of fraudulently inflating the values of Trump’s assets in order to boost his net worth and reap an array of financial benefits.
The AG seeks around $250 million in damages and wants to permanently bar Trump and his sons, who took over the Trump Organization after their father became president in 2017, from running another New York business.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are liable for fraudulently misstating the values of real estate properties and other assets on Trump’s financial records. Engoron’s pretrial ruling also ordered the cancellation of the defendants’ New York business certificates, though an appeals court has temporarily blocked that order from taking effect.
The trial, which is being conducted without a jury, will determine penalties and resolve other claims in James’ lawsuit.
State lawyers rested their case in chief last week, following testimony from Trump and three of his adult children. Ivanka Trump, who in June was dismissed as a defendant by an appeals court, was the last of more than two dozen witnesses questioned on the stand by the state.
In his first round on the stand in early November, Trump Jr. testified that he was not involved in preparing the so-called “statements of financial condition” at the heart of James’ case. He said he relied on accountants employed by the company, primarily Donald Bender, a former Trump family accountant.
Bender had previously testified that the information he used to assemble the financial statements was provided to him by the Trump Organization.
Trump Jr. is expected to testify Monday and Tuesday. He will be questioned by defense attorneys, after which James’ attorneys will also have the opportunity to cross-examine him.
Last week, defense lawyers requested to have the case thrown out, arguing that the AG’s office had not established any victim or injury in the case. They pointed to the fact that the loans obtained via the disputed financial statements were paid back on time and with interest.
Engoron has already rejected this argument, saying last month that the case contained enough evidence to “fill the courtroom.”
Trump and his allies have attacked Engoron at length in and out of the courtroom. Trump complained about the judge, saying he “always rules against me” and calling the trial “unfair,” while sitting next to him during his sworn testimony last week.
On Friday, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik filed an ethics complaint calling for Engoron’s removal from the case.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.