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Donald Trump’s son Eric took the witness stand Thursday to accuse the New York attorney general’s attorney of his knowledge of the financial statements at the center of a civil fraud case against his family.
Andrew Amer, a lawyer for New York Attorney General Letitia James, has repeatedly pressed Eric Trump to admit that he was aware of the annual “Financial Status Statement” outlining his father’s assets.
Yet Eric Trump denied awareness of the report — even in the face of a series of emails asking him for information from aides to help prepare it. After more than an hour of Amar’s questioning, they circled the same topic, leaving the witness confused.
“We’re a big organization — a big real estate company. Yes, I’m sure we have financial statements. Absolutely,” the voice boomed at one point.
The hearing took a strange turn late in the day when the Trumps’ lawyer, Christopher Kiss, suggested a bias by Judge Arthur Engron’s law clerk, prompting a table-pounding rebuke from the judge.
“I have an absolute, unfettered right to consult with my primary law clerk,” Engoron declared. Moments earlier she told Kiss: “I sometimes think your reference to my ‘female’ legal writer might be a little misogynistic.”
Engoron has already found that former President Trump and his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, inflated their fortunes by up to $2.2bn to secure loans for their family businesses with favorable terms and other concessions. The hearing will determine whether Trump pays more than $250 million in fines and faces other sanctions in the case brought by the New York attorney general. All the defendants have denied liability.
Eric Trump took the stand around 11:45 a.m., just as his older brother finished his own testimony that began Wednesday. Their father is scheduled to testify Monday, followed by their sister Ivanka.
As he had done earlier in the day, Donald Jr. repeatedly directed responsibility for financial statements to Mazars, the Trump Organization’s outside accountant, and its former longtime chief financial officer, Alan Weiselberg, who served three months in prison for a tax evasion scheme. Organized in the company.
Donald Jr. admitted to signing a series of certificates for creditors on his father’s behalf, certifying that financial statements were accurate — among other things. But he told the court that he did so with the assurance of other executives. In a display of breezy confidence, Donald Jr. dismissed one of these documents as merely “your butt’s letter.”
When it came to his turn, Eric Trump – like his older brother – repeatedly said in court that he “didn’t remember” the various documents he sued. He portrayed himself as a busy executive accustomed to “pouring concrete” as opposed to dealing with accounting figures. He insisted that he was not aware of his father’s financial statements.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen or worked on a financial statement,” he told Amar. At another point, he said: “I think I was 26 at the time. I don’t remember what I knew at the time.
Their exchanges became more tense after Amer released a 2013 email from former Trump Organization comptroller Jeffrey McCaney. “Hi Eric, I’m working on your dad’s annual financial report,” began McCany, and then Eric asked for help evaluating Westchester’s growth under Trump’s vision.
A related spreadsheet used by McConney to create the annual report indicated that the Westchester entry was based on a phone call with Eric Trump.
In another email that month – addressed to Weiselberg and Eric Trump – McEnany wrote: “I am working on notes for Mr Trump’s annual financial report and would like to include any major construction projects from the previous year”.
Under pressure, Eric Trump admitted that he may have responded to McCany’s requests for information, but that it “didn’t register” with him for financial reporting purposes.
Later that afternoon, Amar used a series of emails to challenge Eric Trump’s March form contention that he was only “vaguely familiar” with the Cushman & Wakefield appraiser who reviewed the Westchester property.
“It’s very inconsistent with what my role is in the organization,” Eric Trump said in a March deposition, which Amar played on a video monitor in the courtroom. “As far as I know, I’m not actually involved in the appraisal work on this property.”
Engoron’s law clerk has alleged that since the early days of the investigation, the former president falsely identified her on social media as the “girlfriend” of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, accusing her of influencing the proceedings against him. This led to a partial gag order from Engoron to protect his safety and, ultimately, a $15,000 fine against Trump for violating it.
Kiss took up the matter late Thursday, saying he often feels “like I’m fighting two enemies” and is skeptical of secret memos sent from the clerk to the judge. She defended herself against Engoron’s charge of prejudice: “I am not a misogynist. I am very happily married and have a 17 year old daughter.
Another Trump lawyer, Alina Huba, jumped to Kiss’s defense, telling Engoron: “I’m not going to call someone on my team a misogynist.”