Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr testified on Wednesday that he had little to do with preparing financial documents at the family real-estate company that a judge has found fraudulent, in a trial that could hobble the former US president's business empire.
Over the course of one and a half hours on the witness stand, Donald Jr said he provided cash-flow figures to company accountants while he and his brother Eric oversaw the Trump Organization during their father's 2017-2021 presidency.
But he said he was not directly involved in preparing the so-called statements of financial condition of properties and other company assets, which New York state prosecutors say were fraudulently inflated to win favourable terms from lenders and insurers.
"They could have asked me on any given day what a deal was worth," he said, adding: "I may not have known that it was going to be used in aggregate for the statements of financial condition."
Donald Jr is a co-defendant in the case, along with his father and his brother Eric.
His testimony is expected to continue into Thursday afternoon and could delve deeper into his role managing properties and licensing deals. Eric is scheduled to testify after he is finished, followed by his sister Ivanka Trump on Friday. Their father is set to testify on Monday.
The lawsuit by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses Trump, his two adult sons and a handful of their family businesses of inflating their assets by billions of dollars to secure better loan terms.
The case is largely about damages, as Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his company fraudulently inflated those asset values.
James is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his two adult sons from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.
Engoron has ordered the dissolution of companies that control pillars of his real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower in Manhattan. That ruling is on hold while Trump appeals.
The trial is one of many legal troubles Trump faces as he campaigns to retake the White House. He holds a commanding lead over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election, opinion polls show.
The elder Trump also faces four separate criminal prosecutions, including cases in Washington and Georgia related to his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
'LEAVE MY CHILDREN ALONE'
Trump has denied wrongdoing and has repeatedly accused James and Engoron of political bias.
"Leave my children alone, Engoron. You are a disgrace to the legal profession!" he wrote on social media on Wednesday morning.
Trump is under a limited gag order barring him from speaking publicly about court staff but has twice violated it and been fined $15,000 for attacking Engoron’s top clerk, whom he has accused of bias. He has not faced sanctions for his attacks on Engoron or James.
The Washington judge overseeing his federal election subversion trial has also imposed a limited gag order. Trump has alleged that both violate his right to free speech.
Trump himself is not required to attend trial and did not appear in court on Wednesday.
He appeared in court last week for a dramatic reunion with his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who testified against his former boss last week.
Cohen, appearing face-to-face with Trump for the first time since their acrimonious break five years ago, said Trump directed him to inflate asset values to arrive at the arbitrary net worth he desired.