Donald Trump Jr. testified Wednesday that he had nothing to do with his family’s business’s annual financial statements to banks and insurers, although his testimony indicated he was partially responsible.
The controversy that emerged during the New York attorney general’s civil fraud trial ended the afternoon with otherwise remarkable testimony from Mr. Trump, the first of the family members to testify in the case.
Asked if he had been working on such a statement since 2017, Mr. Trump was clear: “I haven’t. Accountants were working on it. We pay them for that.”
He soon clarified that his conversations with others in the company could inform the financial report. Attorney General Letitia James said such documents were full of fraud, which helped the Trump Organization get favorable treatment from creditors.
Mr. Trump, the eldest child of former President Donald J. Trump, will continue to testify on Thursday, followed by his brother Eric Trump. Their father is scheduled to take the stand Monday. Their sister Ivanka Trump was also expected to speak next week, but Mrs Trump’s lawyer said she was asking an appeals court to block a subpoena requiring her to testify.
The former president and his two adult sons are defendants in the case filed by Ms. James. The presiding judge, Arthur F. Engoron, found Mr. Trump and his sons responsible for the fraud before the trial. It remains to be determined how the former president will be punished and whether he and the other defendants will be held liable for violating other parts of New York law.
Ms. James also sued Ms. Trump, but an appeals court dismissed the case against her, finding that the statute of limitations had expired.
Mr Trump’s statements about the financial documents – most of them in the five minutes before the trial ended – represented the only moments of drama from the first day of his testimony. The Attorney General’s Office claims that his signature on the letters confirming his responsibility for the financial statements directly links him to the fraud.
His time on the witness stand was otherwise relaxed as he answered questions posed by one of the attorney general’s attorneys and often smiled at the judge. Wearing a navy suit and pink tie and looking completely at ease, Mr. Trump spoke quickly, prompting Judge Engoro to ask him to slow down.
“I’m sorry, your honor,” Mr. Trump said. “I moved to Florida, but I kept the pace of New York.”
He testified mainly about his experience at the Trump Organization, where he started shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks. After starting as a project manager, he rose to the position of executive vice president. He was one of two trustees appointed to oversee his father’s assets after Mr. Trump was elected president in 2017.
At that time, he said, he focused on international business, although he later stated that those deals slowed down when his father was in office. (The New York Times reported that Donald J. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. continued to engage in international business deals between 2017 and 2021.)
In the trial, which began last month, attorneys from the attorney general’s office questioned more than 20 witnesses, probing the judge about the details of the Trump Organization’s annual financial statements and operations. Donald Trump Jr. was the third defendant to testify in 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 the value of assets is subjective, and have tried to show that any problems with the financial statements are the responsibility of outsiders. Donald Trump Jr. seems to have taken this message to heart: During his testimony, he spoke several times about the company’s foreign accountants at Mazars, USA.
Mr. Trump Jr. when asked if he knew anything about the industry standard Generally Accepted Accounting Principles beyond what he learned in college, he replied, “No. I have CPAs for that.”
He added: “These people had incredibly intimate knowledge and I trusted them.”