Thursday, July 25, 2024

Donald Trump’s sons are about to testify. Trump Jr. can’t recall using GAAP except ‘probably in Accounting 101 at Wharton’

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When Donald Trump became president in 2017, he handed day-to-day management of his real estate empire to his eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

Now, as the Trumps fight to keep the family business intact, the brothers are set to testify in the New York civil fraud case that threatens their Trump Organization’s future.

Donald Trump Jr. is expected to testify Wednesday and Eric Trump on Thursday, kicking off a blockbuster stretch as the trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit enters its second month.

James, a Democrat, alleges that Donald Trump, his company and top executives, including Eric and Donald Trump Jr., conspired to exaggerate his wealth by billions of dollars on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers, and others to secure loans and make deals.

Donald Trump — the former president, family patriarch and 2024 Republican front-runner — is slated to testify Monday, followed by his eldest daughter, ex-Trump Organization executive and White House adviser Ivanka Trump, on Nov. 8. State lawyers are expected to rest their case after that, giving Trump’s lawyers a chance to call their own witnesses.

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are both executive vice presidents at the Trump Organization and defendants in James’ lawsuit. Eric has oversight over the company’s operations while Donald Trump Jr. has been involved in running the company’s property development. He and longtime company finance chief Allen Weisselberg were also trustees of the revocable trust Trump set up to hold the company’s assets when he became president.

Fraudulent financial statements

Before the trial, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent. He ordered that a court-appointed receiver seize control of some of his companies — potentially stripping him and his family of such marquee properties as Trump Tower — though an appeals court has halted enforcement for now.

Like their father, both brothers have denied wrongdoing.

Eric Trump has spent several days at the trial, often on the days his dad has been there. He’s commented sporadically, mostly on social media. On Oct. 5, he posted a video montage to Truth Social of James criticizing his father. With it, he wrote: “this is the corruption my father and our family is fighting! The system is weaponized, broken and disgusting!”

Donald Trump Jr. hasn’t been to court, but since testimony began Oct. 2, he’s repeatedly denounced the case and Engoron as a “kangaroo court.” State law doesn’t allow for juries in this type of lawsuit, so Engoron will decide the case.

“It doesn’t matter what the rules are, it doesn’t matter what the Constitution says, it doesn’t matter what general practices and business would be,” Donald Trump Jr. said Monday on Newsmax. “It doesn’t matter. They have a narrative, they have an end goal, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

Lofty values

Building to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump’s testimony, state lawyers have asked other witnesses about their role leading the Trump Organization and their involvement, over the years, in valuing their father’s properties and preparing his financial statements. Their names have also appeared on various emails and documents entered into evidence.

David McArdle, an appraiser at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, testified that Eric Trump had substantial input on valuing planned-but-never-built townhomes at a Trump-owned golf course in the New York City suburbs. McArdle said Eric Trump arrived at a “more lofty value” than him for the project but that going with the scion’s higher number wouldn’t have been credible.

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have already been heard from at the trial, albeit in snippets of prior testimony. During opening statements on Oct. 2, state lawyers showed about a minute each from sworn depositions the brothers gave in the case.

In his July 2022 clip, Donald Trump Jr. testified about his scant knowledge of the accounting standards known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — which state lawyers say were used at times and disregarded at others in preparing Donald Trump’s financial statements.

Trump Jr., who’s never been an accountant, said he couldn’t recall having to use the GAAP standards in his work. He got a laugh out of a state lawyer when he said he’d learned about them “probably in Accounting 101 at Wharton” but didn’t remember much other than that they were “generally accepted.”

In his March 2023 deposition, Eric Trump testified, “I don’t think I’ve had any involvement in the Statement of Financial Condition, to the best of my knowledge.” He appeared to minimize his role as a top company executive, testifying that he tried to remain “siloed into the things I care and are passionate about” while sharing management responsibilities with his brother.

“I’m a construction, concrete and on-the-ground operations guy,” Eric Trump said, according to a deposition transcript posted on the case docket.

Questioned at another point about decision-making earlier in his career, Eric Trump said: “I pour concrete. I operate properties. I don’t focus on appraisals between a law firm and Cushman. This is just not what I do in my day-to-day responsibilities.”

Donald Trump attended the trial’s first three days in early October and showed up again for four days in the past two weeks, but his campaign schedule suggests it’s unlikely he’ll return to see his sons testify.

In his past appearances, Trump groused to TV cameras outside court, calling the case a “sham,” a “scam,” and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.” He also angered the judge twice, incurring $15,000 in fines for violating a limited gag order with comments about a member of the court staff.


Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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