Donald Trump Jr. frustrates AG with softball defense testimony at NYC fraud trial | Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Donald Trump Jr. frustrates AG with softball defense testimony at NYC fraud trial

Judge Arthur Engoron gave the Trump family some leeway to "talk about how great the Trump Organization is."

MANHATTAN (CN) — Donald Trump Jr. returned to the witness stand on Monday, armed once again with his signature slicked-back hair and salesman-like charisma, to testify in his family’s defense against the New York attorney general's $250 million civil fraud case.

His roughly four-hour Monday testimony fixated on the “spectacular” and “sexy” properties that the Trump Organization developed and managed, but it lacked any substantial rebuttals to the attorney general’s claims of asset inflation. Instead, Trump Jr. and his lawyers tried to paint the Trump Organization as a company of do-gooders dead set on beautifying real estate and charitably employing around 1,000 people.

Earlier this month, the 45-year-old testified to questions from state attorneys, who pressed him on his involvement in the Trump Organization’s fraudulently inflated financial documents.

Now answering questions for his own side, Trump Jr. matched his previous testimony with quippy and energetic enthusiasm that was on full display at Monday’s proceedings. 

Shortly after he took the stand, he garnered a chuckle from the crowd, joking that he’d say he was happy to be back in the courtroom but “the attorney general might sue me for perjury.”

Trump Jr. fielded softball questions from defense lawyer Clifford Robert about the history of the Trump family and its namesake corporation. He lauded the Trump Organization as a true “meritocracy” that rewards people “who can get things done.” 

“I think it’s much more of a meritocracy than titles,” said Trump Jr., praising the company for looking past “fancy degrees” in favor of hard workers.

Trump Jr., a graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, serves as an executive vice president at his father’s company alongside his younger brother, Eric Trump. 

The eldest son of the former president showered his dad with praise for the real estate empire he built over the past five decades — the same empire that the New York attorney general is seeking to drive out of the state with the fraud case.

“He’s an artist with real estate. He sees the things that other people don’t,” Trump Jr. said of his father, referring to the Seven Springs estate as a “potential canvas for my father’s art, which is development.”

Guiding Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony was a lengthy slideshow titled “The Trump Story,” Pulled directly from the Trump Organization’s website, rife with promotional information about the company’s most famous properties and storylines. 

Robert started the slideshow shortly after Trump Jr. took the stand on Monday, prompting an immediate objection by the attorney general’s office.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to put a hearsay document on the screen,” an attorney for the state said.

Judge Arthur Engoron was willing to give the defense team a long leash, however.

“Let this stuff come in… I also find it interesting. I think it's relevant to get historical perspective,” Engoron said. “Let him go ahead and talk about how great the Trump Organization is.”

For the next several hours, Trump Jr. did just that. He patiently walked the courtroom through the history of his family and the company, starting from the early 1900s, as Robert inquired about properties operated by the Trump Organization, including some of the same assets whose value the company was accused of inflating on financial statements. 

With the fanatic eagerness of a sales pitch, Trump Jr. hailed Mar-a-Lago as “the crown jewel of Palm Beach.”

“My father purchased what I say is one of the finest estates anywhere in the world, certainly in America,” Trump Jr. said of the Florida resort. “I look at it as one of the few American castles… This is one of the most spectacular estates anywhere in the world. My father was able to come up with some very creative ways to purchase this estate.”

The attorney general’s office believes Mar-a-Lago was overvalued by more than $600 million on the Trump Organization’s scrutinized statements of financial condition. 

With his father swamped in legal battles both civil and criminal, Trump Jr. acknowledged that the fate of the family business depends heavily on whether or not they’re going to be “sued into oblivion” going forward.

Trump Jr., the first defense witness, was cross-examined only briefly on Monday by Colleen Faherty of the attorney general’s office, who poked holes in his testimony about the success of 40 Wall Street. He was excused from the stand ahead of schedule.

Over the next several weeks, Trump’s lawyers will call from a lengthy witness list as they mount their defense in the attorney general’s multi-million-dollar case against the Trump Organization and family. Several of those witnesses, like Trump Jr., were already called by the state.

Another was former Trump tax lawyer Sheri Dillon, who made her way to the stand Monday after Trump Jr. was excused.

“Welcome back. I feel like I’m at a reunion,” Engoron told Dillon.

The attorney general’s office conditionally rested its case last week. Trump’s lawyers on Thursday pushed for a directed verdict in favor of the defense; the judge has yet to rule on their motion.

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