Donald Trump Jr. retook the witness stand Monday to paint an idyllic picture of the Trump Organization and its real estate ventures in the Manhattan fraud trial putting the family’s business empire at risk.
As the first witness in the defense case, former President Trump’s eldest son offered a glowing evaluation of his father’s real estate business, lauding its many “great, iconic projects” and the former president’s “vision … to do things differently.”
“He’s an artist with real estate. He sees the things other people don’t,” Donald Trump Jr. testified Monday, according to The Associated Press (AP). “He has incredible vision that other people don’t.”
Donald Trump Jr. spent his reprise on the witness stand walking Judge Arthur Engoron through a glossy slideshow titled “The Trump Story,” narrating the company’s origin, complete with cameos from the former president’s grandfather, who developed hotels for miners during the gold rush, and father, who expanded the family business into Manhattan.
Sleek photographs of the Trump Organization’s luxury golf courses and hotels accompanied the presentation — which notably glossed over the valuations of those properties and omitted many details in question as part of the New York attorney general’s case against the business. State lawyer Colleen Faherty sought to cut the bravado short, but Engoron decided to “let this stuff come in,” calling it “interesting,” the AP reported.
When asked about his vision for the future of the company, the eldest Trump son described the 2024 election as a determining factor, suggesting that a second Trump presidency could place the company’s development on hold as it would be “sued into oblivion for the foreseeable future,” according to The New York Times. Those comments echoed the former president’s own testimony on the witness stand, which often veered into political speech that sometimes drew the judge’s rebuke.
Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony Monday marked his second time on the witness stand in the sprawling fraud trial. Two weeks ago, he testified under oath to his role — or lack thereof — in his father’s financial statements, which are documents at the heart of the case.
Trump’s statements of financial condition detail the value of the Trump Organization’s various assets. The attorney general sued Trump last year claiming he, the business and several executives — including Trump’s two adult sons — falsely inflated and deflated the value of those assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage. The financial statements were then sent to banks and insurers to secure loans and deals, which the attorney general says is evidence of fraud.
Engoron already ruled that Trump, the Trump Organization and the executives were liable for fraud before the bench trial began.
Donald Trump Jr. — an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and trustee of the trust that held Trump’s assets while he was president — denied any involvement in his father’s statements of financial condition. Instead, he said he relied on accountants and other experts such as then-Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, another defendant in the case, to ensure accuracy.
“As a trustee, I have an obligation to listen [to] those who are expert — who have an expertise of these things,” Donald Trump Jr. said.
The defense has sought to shift the blame for the statements’ skewed numbers from Trump and his family onto the accountants who calculated them, as demonstrated by ex-Trump accountant Donald Bender’s weeklong testimony at the start of the trial in which Trump’s lawyers sought to portray him as negligent.
Donald Trump Jr.’s siblings, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, similarly distanced themselves from the financial statements in their testimony, with Ivanka Trump saying she had no role in preparing the documents “that I’m aware of” and Eric Trump saying he “never had anything to do with the statement of financial condition.”
Trump’s legal team is tasked with reframing the narrative of Trump’s business dealings, laid out by state lawyers in their weeks-long case in chief.
The former president’s counsel must also sway Engoron not to order the former president to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in financial penalties to the state for defrauding it. There is no jury, so the judge will ultimately decide the business’s fate. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has requested some $250 million in financial penalties.
James’s office rested its case in chief last week — a case defined by high-profile witnesses, dramatic outbursts and a winding paper trail. The defense case is expected to span until mid-December, and both Eric Trump and the former president himself could take the stand again.