What to know about the Trump fraud trial defense and Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony

When Donald Trump launches his defense Monday against allegations that he, his adult sons and his business defrauded lenders and insurers to enrich themselves, the first witness his lawyers will call is the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as they aim to convince the judge that they didn’t intentionally do anything wrong.

Trump Jr., a defendant in the case, testified earlier this month when he was called by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which filed the fraud lawsuit.

Under oath, he denied any role in the preparation of his father’s financial statements and said he consulted with lawyers and accountants before he signed off on the statements as trustee of his father’s trust and certified their accuracy annually to banks that loaned them millions of dollars. The Trumps have also argued that the banks were happy to have their business.

Trump’s lawyers, launching their case in the seventh week of the trial, are recalling some of the state’s witnesses as they present their defense to the allegations.

In addition to Trump Jr., Trump attorneys have said they are likely to call back Eric Trump and the former president, both of whom also previously testified.

Trump’s argument

The thrust of the Trump defense is that the financial statements were not misleading and that different people can come up with different values for the same property.

The defense has argued that there was no intent to defraud banks or insurers, in part because the Trump family relied on accountants, and that any differences in values on the properties were not meaningful.

Trump’s team has argued the financial statements were not important to the decisions by lenders to loan money or by insurers to underwrite policies. Moreover, they argue no banks lost any money and none have claimed they were defrauded or misled by the financial statements.

When Trump Jr. takes the stand, he will be questioned by attorneys representing the Trump family and business. That will allow greater leeway in the kinds of questions and answers he can give than when he was quizzed by lawyers for the state. It will also open him up to cross-examination by the state’s lawyers.

The Trumps’ attorneys didn’t cross-examine the former president or any of the family members – lawyers doing cross-examination are limited to questions that fall within the scope of the state attorney’s questions. By recalling Trump Jr. and the others, their answers can be more explanatory and not limited to the “yes” or “no” responses that the attorney general’s office had tried to insist on.

Donald Trump said in testimony that his lawyers will call bankers to testify about the processes they used in underwriting decisions. And their team plans to call Trump Organization executives and several expert witnesses about valuations and accounting.

Judge Arthur Engoron said Thursday he would allow Trump’s lawyers to call the expert witnesses, rejecting an effort by the attorney general’s office to block their testimony.

Judge already ruled against Trump

In September, before the trial began, Engoron ruled that the Trumps engaged in “persistent and repeated fraud” by inflating the value of assets on the financial statements.

The state is attempting to prove six other claims, including conspiracy, falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, and insurance fraud. The attorney general’s office is seeking to collect millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains and to ban the Trumps from doing business in New York state.

Over six weeks, state attorneys introduced hundreds of pages of documents and called 25 witnesses, including Trump, his sons and his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, before resting their case last week. They also called accountants, current and former Trump Organization officials, appraisers, an insurance underwriter, a bank risk officer, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. In addition, the state called an expert witness who testified that the Trumps improperly made at least $168 million from better interest rates on loans.

Ivanka Trump was originally charged in the case, but a court in June dismissed the claims against her.

The state alleges that the Trumps were involved in valuing properties on the financial statements; that the documents were vouched for by Trump and Trump Jr.; and that they were passed on to external accountants, lenders, insurers and government officials involved in two properties.

Trump’s lawyers projected they will complete their defense case by December 15.

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