Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s oldest child, and Eric Trump, the ex-president’s second son, are parties in the New York attorney general’s lawsuit, which claims the family’s business for decades falsely inflated and deflated the value of its assets to receive lower taxes and better insurance coverage.
The brothers, who are executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, are expected to testify back-to-back, with Donald Trump Jr. taking to the stand Wednesday and Eric Trump testifying Thursday. Their testimony could offer critical insight into the company’s structure and their complicity in its fraud — or it could devolve into a political circus.
Donald Trump Jr. is at the “top of the hierarchy” of the business’s current form, according to testimony by Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-fixer and personal attorney.
His signature has appeared on numerous financial statements displayed as evidence throughout the fraud trial as New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office attempts to paint him and his siblings as knowledgeable about the business’s practices.
Eric Trump worked for the family business and the Eric Trump Foundation until 2016, when he resigned from the child cancer fundraising group after his father won the presidency.
He has attended the Manhattan fraud trial nearly every day Trump has attended, sitting in the front left row of the gallery, and he has appeared engaged in the case, frequently shaking his head or whispering with other Trump advisers seated beside him.
After Trump was elected, he announced the two sons would take over the family business with the help of executives, like Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and Controller Jeff McConney — both of whom are also defendants in the fraud case and have already testified.
As part of a separate criminal case over the same conduct, Weisselberg testified that Trump and his sons signed checks up to $100,000 for the CFO’s grandchildren’s private school tuition — an amount that was later deducted from his salary, allowing him to report a decreased income.
Both brothers reported to their father — “no one else” — and split different business opportunities between themselves and their sister, Ivanka Trump, according to Cohen’s testimony.
Cohen said Trump’s eldest children were involved in valuing properties in the projects they led, implying they were complicit in the alleged ballooning of the Trump Organization’s assets. However, when pressed, Cohen said he did not personally witness that work.
Ivanka Trump is also expected to testify in the fraud trial targeting the family’s business. She was once a party in the lawsuit, but a New York appeals court in June dismissed her from the case, ruling that the claims against her were barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
Last week, her lawyers argued that the New York attorney general’s office does not have the jurisdiction to force the former president’s daughter to testify, suggesting the office is attempting to “force her back into this case” despite her dismissal from it.
“Ms. Trump is not a party in this action. Nor is Ms. Trump a New York resident,” they wrote. “It is black-letter law that, given those two facts, Ms. Trump is beyond the jurisdiction of this Court.”
However, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled she would have to testify, claiming her ties to New York have hardly been severed.
“Ms. Trump has clearly availed herself of the privilege of doing business in New York,” Engoron said Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Ivanka Trump’s testimony was slated for Friday but was changed to Nov. 8 due to scheduling conflicts. Her attorneys could appeal the decision, which might delay her testimony.
Former President Trump is expected to take to the stand next week — the second time he’ll do so, though the first under questioning by prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. Trump briefly took to the stand last week to explain a statement he made to reporters that Engoron found to be in violation of an established gag order.
It may not be the last time Trump and his sons testify in the fraud case; they’re each listed as witnesses for the defense’s case, as well, and could be called again in later months. The trial is expected to span until late December.
Engoron ruled before the trial even began that Trump, the Trump Organization and Trump’s sons were liable for fraud after finding James proved the crux of her case.
The Trumps have denied any wrongdoing, calling the case politically motivated and a “witch hunt.”