Donald Trump Jr. Testifies at Civil Fraud Trial in New York
Donald Trump Jr. testified on Wednesday that he had no involvement in annual financial statements that his family’s business gave banks and insurers despite language in the statements themselves suggesting that he was partially responsible for them.
His contention, which came during the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, capped an afternoon of otherwise unremarkable testimony from Mr. Trump, who is the first of his family members to testify about the case.
Asked whether he worked on one such statement, from 2017, Mr. Trump was clear: “I did not. The accountants worked on it. That’s what we pay them for.”
He soon clarified that his conversations with others at the company may have informed the financial statement. The attorney general, Letitia James, has said such papers were filled with fraud that helped the company, the Trump Organization, gain favorable treatment from lenders.
Mr. Trump, the oldest child of former President Donald J. Trump, will continue to testify Thursday and will be followed by his brother, Eric Trump. Their father is scheduled to take the stand on Monday. Ivanka Trump, their sister, was also expected to take the stand next week, but a lawyer for Ms. Trump has said he has asked an appeals court to block the subpoena requiring her to testify.
The former president and his two adult sons are defendants in the case brought by Ms. James. The judge overseeing it, Arthur F. Engoron, found before the trial that Mr. Trump and his sons were liable for the fraud. It remains to be determined how the former president will be penalized, and whether he and the other defendants are liable for having violated other parts of New York law.
Ms. James also sued Ms. Trump, but an appeals court threw out the case against her, finding that it was barred by a legal deadline.
Mr. Trump’s statements about the financial documents — most of which he made in the five minutes before court ended — represented the sole moments of drama from his first day of testimony. The attorney general’s office has argued that his signature on letters affirming his responsibility for the financial statements links him directly to fraud.
His time on the witness stand was otherwise congenial as he answered questions posed by one of the attorney general’s lawyers and often smiled at the judge. Mr. Trump, wearing a navy suit and pink tie and seeming wholly comfortable, spoke rapidly, compelling Justice Engoron to ask him to slow down.
“I apologize, your honor,” Mr. Trump said. “I moved to Florida, but I kept the New York pace.”
He testified mainly about his experience at the Trump Organization, where he began working shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After starting as a project manager, he rose to become an executive vice president. He was one of two trustees appointed to oversee his father’s assets once Mr. Trump was elected president in 2017.
At that point, he said, he focused on international business, though he later testified that those deals slowed when his father was in office.
During the trial, which began last month, lawyers with the attorney general’s office have questioned more than 20 witnesses, taking the judge deep into the specifics of the annual financial statements and the Trump Organization’s operations. Donald Trump Jr. was the third defendant to testify about the case; he was preceded by Allen H. Weisselberg, the company’s former chief financial officer, and Jeffrey McConney, its former controller.
The former president has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers have argued that asset values are subjective and have tried to show that people outside the company were responsible for any problems with the financial statements. Donald Trump Jr. appeared to have taken that message to heart: Several times during his testimony he spoke about the company’s outside accountants at Mazars USA.
Asked whether he knew anything about the industry standard Generally Accepted Accounting Principles beyond what he had learned in college, Mr. Trump Jr. said, “No. That’s what I have C.P.A.s for.”
He added: “These people had an incredibly intimate knowledge and I relied on them.”