NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Trump, one of two sons entrusted to run Donald Trump’s real estate empire, swore Thursday that he was never involved with financial statements that New York state lawyers say fraudulently puffed up the ex-president’s wealth and the worth of the family business.
But when shown a decade-old email asking him for information for one of his dad’s financial statements, the irritated son strove to clarify.
“We’re a major organization, a massive real estate organization — yes, I’m fairly sure I understand that we have financial statements. Absolutely,” Eric Trump testified at the family’s and company’s civil fraud trial. But the Trump Organization executive vice president insisted: “I had no involvement and never worked on my father’s statement of financial condition.”
Though another Trump Organization executive has testified that Eric Trump was on a video call about his father’s financial statement as recently as 2021, the son said he couldn’t remember it.
“I’m on a thousand calls a day,” he said.
Eric Trump followed brother and fellow Trump Organization Executive Vice President Donald Trump Jr. to the stand on a closely watched and sometimes fractious day in the trial. The day ended with Judge Arthur Engoron suggesting he might expand a gag order, after defense lawyers again criticized his law clerk’s role in the case.
Early in the trial, Engoron barred participants in the case from smearing his staff after Donald Trump maligned the clerk on social media. The former president has been fined twice, a total of $15,000, for what the judge said were violations.
Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly complained about the clerk passing notes to the judge during testimony, a practice the attorneys suggest is inappropriate and unfair to them. Engoron says he has an “absolutely unfettered right” to the clerk’s advice.
When the defense complained again Thursday, with Eric Trump watching quietly from the witness stand, a sometimes table-pounding Engoron said he might expand the gag order to include attorneys if anyone refers to a member of his staff again.
The former president, his adult sons and other defendants deny wrongdoing in the case, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She accuses them of inflating the ex-president’s net worth on his annual “statement of financial condition” documents, which were given to banks, insurers and others to secure loans and make deals.
“So sad to see my sons being PERSECUTED in a political Witch Hunt,” the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner wrote on his Truth Social platform Thursday. James and Engoron are Democrats.
Donald Trump is slated to testify Monday, followed by his daughter Ivanka on Wednesday. An appeals court late Thursday denied her request to delay her testimony.
Eric Trump will return to the witness stand Friday.
His role at the family business got attention earlier in the trial, when an appraiser testified that the scion took an active interest a decade ago in sizing up the value of the Trump National Golf Club and Seven Springs estate, both in New York’s suburban Westchester County. According to the lawsuit, Donald Trump’s financial statements went on to list the properties at estimated values over twice the appraiser’s rough numbers.
Eric Trump testified that he hardly remembered the appraiser’s name, let alone the appraisals.
As he started his testimony, he said he “never had anything to do with the statement of financial condition,” didn’t believe he’d ever seen one, “was not personally aware” of the document and ”didn’t know anything about it, really, until this case came into fruition.”
“It’s not what I did for the company,” said the son, who has said he focuses on building and operating properties.
State lawyer Andrew Amer then showed him 2013 emails from then-Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney.
In one, McConney told Eric Trump — then in a different role at the company — that he was “working on your father’s statement of financial condition” and needed information on one of the company’s properties.
In another message, McConney said he was “working on the notes to Mr. Trump’s annual financial statement” and asked Eric Trump and others for an update on recent major construction work.
“Yes, I know Jeff McConney does financial statements for my father,” Eric Trump said, shifting back in his chair. Soon after, he sprang into his answer about the “massive real estate organization,” his voice rising as he spoke.
Emails and documents indicated he had answered McConney’s requests. But when asked to concede that he was actually “very familiar” with the financial statements, Eric Trump cast the messages as just answering an accounting colleague’s request for a property description.
“I just don’t think it would have registered” that they were for the financial statement, he said.
Donald Trump Jr., for his part, testified that he dealt with the financial statements only in passing, while relying on assurances from company finance executives and an outside accounting firm that the information was accurate.
During his second day on the witness stand Thursday, he said that despite James’ allegations, he still believed his father’s financial statements were “materially accurate.” The former president has said that the documents, if anything, lowballed his wealth.
Trump Jr. also revealed that gaming giant Bally’s recently paid the Trump Organization $60 million to buy the right to operate a public golf course in New York City. The terms of the lease transfer for the former Trump Golf Links Ferry Point in the Bronx hadn’t previously been disclosed.
Outside the courthouse, Trump Jr. told reporters he thought his testimony went “really well, if we were actually dealing with logic and reason, the way business is conducted.”
“Unfortunately, the attorney general has brought forth a case that is purely a political persecution,” he said. “I think it’s a truly scary precedent for New York — for me, for example, before even having a day in court, I’m apparently guilty of fraud for relying on my accountants to do, wait for it: accounting.”