Eric Trump returns to the witness stand in the family business’s civil fraud trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Trump testified Friday that he relied on accountants to ensure the accuracy of financial statements that authorities say fraudulently overstated his father’s wealth and the value of his assets to deceive banks and insurance companies.

On the witness stand for the second day in the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Eric Trump was pressed about the steps he took to verify information before signing documents proving to Deutsche Bank’s lender that his father’s financial statements were correct.

The son insisted that he would never sign something that was inaccurate.

“I relied on one of the largest accounting firms in the country. I relied on a great legal team. When they reassured me that the statement was perfect, I was more than happy to implement it.”

Eric Trump’s comments echoed those of his brother Donald Trump Jr., whose testimony earlier this week appeared to lay the groundwork for blaming the Trump Organization’s longtime outside accountant, Donald Bender, for any financial statement irregularities. Trump Jr. testified that the company “relied heavily on” Bender as “a point person in almost anything we did, in terms of accounting.”

James’ lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump, his company and top executives, including Eric and Donald Jr., conspired to inflate his wealth by billions of dollars on his financial statements. The documents were handed over to banks, insurance companies and others to secure loans and conclude deals.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Eric Trump called the case a “charade” and a waste of taxpayer money.

“We’re going to win this thing. I promise you we’re going to win it because we didn’t do anything wrong.”

Another executive at his father’s company testified that Eric Trump was on a video call about his father’s financial statement through 2021. The family and company were aware by then that James’ office was looking at the statements. But Eric confirmed on Friday that he did not remember the call.

“I receive thousands of calls,” he said, saying he picks up his phone at 5 a.m. and puts it down at midnight.

Earlier in the trial, appraiser David McArdle testified that Eric Trump took an active interest a decade ago in appraising some properties owned by Trump, including a golf course where the family envisioned 71 luxury homes in suburban Westchester County, New York. In an email at the time, McArdle said that “Eric Trump has lofty ideas about value,” assuming that townhouses could easily sell for $1,000 per square foot.

Trump’s son testified that he barely remembers McArdle. But as for his own views on the value of the potential development, he told the court Thursday: “I think a thousand dollars a square foot is certainly achievable, yes.” The villas were never built.

Donald Trump and the other defendants – including sons Donald Jr. and Eric – deny any wrongdoing. The civil lawsuit is separate from four criminal cases the former president faces during his campaign to reclaim the White House in 2024.

The former president, who has regularly appeared in court to watch the trial, is expected to testify on Monday. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, is also scheduled to testify next week after an appeals court late Thursday denied her request to postpone her testimony.

The Trump family is called to the stand in front of James’ office, but defense attorneys will also have a chance to question them and can call them back as part of the defense case later.

Judge Arthur Engoron ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of certain Trump companies, putting future oversight of Trump Tower and other landmark properties in doubt. But the Court of Appeal has blocked implementation of that aspect of Engoron’s ruling for the time being.

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