AP and Reuters

In NY fraud trial, Eric Trump says he relied on others to verify documents


Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son and co-defendant, Eric Trump gestures as he leaves the courtroom after attending the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 2, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Eric Trump testified on Friday that he relied on accountants and lawyers to verify the accuracy of financial documents that a judge has ruled to be fraudulent, in a trial that threatens to hobble his father Donald Trump’s real estate empire.

In a second day on the witness stand, the former U.S. president’s second son was confronted with evidence that showed he had signed off on documents that estimated the value of trophy properties like the Trump Seven Springs estate north of New York City and the Trump National Doral golf club in Florida.

That undercut his testimony on Thursday that he knew nothing about those estimates, which Judge Arthur Engoron found were fraudulently inflated to win favorable terms from lenders and insurers.

He said he counted on others to ensure those estimates were accurate. “I relied on one of the biggest accounting firms in the country and I relied on a great legal team, and when they gave me comfort that the statement was perfect, I was more than happy to execute it.”

He said he did not recall many of those interactions or was only involved with them peripherally while he oversaw other aspects of the sprawling business.

“I pick my phone up at five in the morning and I put it down at midnight. I have thousands of calls,” he said with irritation under questioning by state lawyer Andrew Amer.

Prior to his testimony, Trump lawyer Christopher Kise pressed Judge Arthur Engoron to lift a limited gag order that has prevented the former president from publicly criticizing court staff. Trump has already been fined $15,000 for violating that order twice.

Kise threatened to ask for a mistrial because Engoron’s chief clerk allegedly engaged in political activity with Democratic officials. “We all need to take this very seriously, because the entire world is watching,” he said.

Engoron questioned the accuracy of those allegations. “It’s a shame we’ve descended to this level,” he said.

Because Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his company fraudulently inflated asset values, the trial is largely about what penalty they should face.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is pressing for penalties of up to $250 million and a permanent ban on all three Trumps owning companies in their home state, among other restrictions.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has accused James and Engoron of political bias in extensive comments online and in person.

Trump himself is due to testify on Monday, followed by his daughter Ivanka on Wednesday. She is not a defendant in the case.

The trial, which is expected to last until December, is one of several legal troubles confronting Trump as he campaigns to win back the White House.

He faces a total of 91 felony charges in four separate criminal cases, including two stemming from his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, he holds a commanding lead over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

The New York fraud trial has so far seen dramatic appearances by Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump directed him to inflate asset values to make him appear more wealthy.

Trump’s other son, Donald Jr., testified this week that he had little to do with those valuations when he and Eric controlled the company during their father’s 2017-2021 stint in the White House.

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