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Donald Trump Jr. to testify in New York civil case charging his family with fraud


Donald Trump Jr. will testify today in the New York civil case charging his family with fraud.


He is the first member of the Trump family to sit for questioning by the New York state attorney general during this particular trial. Eric Trump is scheduled for tomorrow. And the former president and his daughter Ivanka Trump are set to testify next week.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Andrea Bernstein is here to tell us what to expect. So Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump - why are they defendants here?

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: So let me first say this is the case where a judge has already found that Donald Trump and the other defendants, including two of his older children, committed persistent and repeated business fraud by lying again and again about the value of their assets. At issue in this trial is whether there was a conspiracy to do this and how much, if anything, the Trumps owe New York state to right the wrong. According to the charging documents, quote, "the fraudulent scheme was integral to the business of the Trump Organization and required the participation of Mr. Trump and his children." Eric Trump is the main member of the Trump family running the company. Don Jr. has loosened his ties, spending time writing a book and speaking on the conservative circuit. And Ivanka has all but left the company, moving with her family to Florida.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so there's been about a month of testimony already. What does that reveal about the second generation of Trumps?

BERNSTEIN: The Trump Organization is a family business. Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump were all executive vice presidents who were involved in running the company, commercial buildings, licensing foreign deals. And when then President Trump went to the White House in 2017, he turned over the day-to-day running of the business to his two oldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric. And we've seen in the trial that Don Jr. and Eric Trump approved statements of financial condition. Donald Trump Jr. was involved in commercial buildings like 40 Wall Street, which is one of the big buildings that come up often in the trial. The Trumps told one set of facts to their lenders about that building - that it was worth a lot - and another set to taxing authorities to save on taxes.

MARTÍNEZ: So what's at stake, then, for Don Jr. and Eric Trump?

BERNSTEIN: The AG wants to prevent Eric, Don Jr. and their father from ever running a business in New York again. And Don Jr. and Eric would be among the individuals responsible for paying 250 million back to the state if the judge rules in the AG's favor. I should say Ivanka Trump is not a defendant. She was a senior White House adviser to her father and left the company in early 2017. So her actions took place too long ago to be part of this case.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, will her brothers have to testify?

BERNSTEIN: Could take the Fifth Amendment, but because this is a civil case, the judge could use that against them to draw what's called an adverse inference about them. Another co-defendant, the former CFO Allen Weisselberg, answered many questions when he testified by saying, I don't recall. So you might see some of that.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, Don Jr. and Eric Trump - how have they responded to the AG's lawsuit?

BERNSTEIN: The family members have steadfastly maintained this is a normal way of conducting a real estate business in New York. Eric Trump recently posted on social media about the New York attorney general, Letitia James, saying, this is the corruption my father and our family is fighting in New York. The system is weaponized, broken and disgusting. Donald Trump Jr. said on a conservative news network, this is a kangaroo court.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thanks a lot.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Andrea Bernstein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]