Don Jr. Takes the Stand at Dad’s Fraud Trial—and Blames the Accountants

Mike Segar/Reuters
Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump Jr. took the stand Wednesday afternoon at his father’s civil fraud trial in New York City, laying the blame for any financial irregularities at the family firm squarely on its accountants.

The ex-president’s eldest son faced a grilling from the New York Attorney General’s office about the Trump Organization’s financial statements, which prosecutors allege were falsified to massively inflate the value of Donald Trump’s properties.

“I leave it to my CPAs,” the 45-year-old Don Jr. testified, painting himself as more of a globetrotting dealmaker than someone with any special knowledge about keeping a corporation’s books.

Wearing a dark suit and pink tie, and sporting a deep tan, Don Jr. showed up at Manhattan Supreme Court shortly after 2 p.m., to a crush of photographers and news crews lined up along the sidewalk.

Just before he was called to the witness stand at around 3 p.m., a knot of photographers came in to snap his picture.

“I should have worn makeup!” he quipped, his dad joke falling pancake-flat in the hushed courtroom.

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His testimony followed that of Michiel McCarty, a banking expert called by the prosecution. McCarty testified Wednesday that the Trump Organization improperly received more than $168 million under loan terms made more favorable by manipulating the value of its assets.

With New York State Attorney General Letitia James looking on from a seat in the front row, Assistant Attorney General Colleen Faherty began questioning Don Jr. by asking about his educational background.

He described himself as a licensed real estate broker who serves with siblings Eric and Ivanka as officers of Trump International Realty. When asked if he was familiar with the acronym “GAAP,” or “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles,” he replied, “I understand what it stands for,” and that he learned it “in Accounting 101 in the late 90s.”

“That’s why we have accountants… I rely on their opinions to make assessments,” Don Jr. testified.

As for his official title at the Trump Organization, Don Jr. said he was an executive vice president.

“Where does EVP fit within the [corporate] hierarchy?” Faherty asked.

“Fairly high up,” Don Jr. said.

While Faherty was questioning Don Jr. about a 10-year-old distribution sheet his father had signed, defense lawyers stood up and objected, calling her focus on the financial document “irrelevant.”

“I know you don’t like it when good evidence comes in, but please allow me to continue,” Faherty shot back.

Don Jr. testified that he could have given revenue estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars regarding individual deals to then-CFO Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Org’s other accountants but that he “may not have even known” those figures would later be used in a broader statement of financial condition, seemingly trying to separate himself from the overall wrongdoing alleged by the AG.

The exchange came after Judge Arthur Engoron asked Faherty and Don Jr. to slow down the “rapid fire” pace of their questions and answers, because the court stenographer was having trouble keeping up.

“I apologize, your honor,” Don Jr. said. “I moved to Florida, but I kept the New York pace.”

Faherty also asked about Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last year to 15 charges related to the alleged fraud, and spent 100 days in jail. Don Jr. said he was not familiar with the specifics of why Weisselberg left the firm, saying only that he thought it was “because [of] some legal issues he got himself into.”

At the same time, he seemingly made a point of letting prosecutors know he wasn’t overly concerned about the case against him and the family company.

“Are you familiar with the attorney general’s complaint in this case?” Faherty asked.

“Vaguely, yes,” Don Jr. replied.

Court adjourned for the day after he spent about 90 minutes on the stand. He was set to return on Thursday morning.

The AG alleges Trump’s three adult children were “intimately involved” with the operation of the family business. Ivanka is no longer a party to the suit but has been subpoenaed to testify. On Wednesday, her lawyers filed a notice of appeal, saying she should not be forced to appear because she is not named in the suit anymore and now lives in Florida.

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