Donald Trump Jr. takes the witness stand in New York fraud lawsuit against his father

Donald Trump Jr. sitting in front of observers in a courtroom
Donald Trump Jr. waits to testify in New York on Wednesday in the state’s civil fraud case that threatens the family company’s future.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Donald Trump Jr. took the witness stand Wednesday in the civil fraud trial over whether his father overstated his wealth to banks and insurers, a case that threatens former President Trump’s real estate empire.

The first family member to testify, Donald Trump Jr. greeted the scene with a quip: “I should have worn makeup,” he said as news photographers took his photo.

He was collected and seemed at ease as a lawyer for New York state asked him a beginning series of questions about his education and career at the family business, the Trump Organization. He made some lighthearted asides — for instance, when asked whether he belonged to an accountants organization, he replied, “Sounds very exciting, but no.”


But as Trump Organization executive vice president, he took serious care to establish that he’s not an accountant or an expert on accounting standards that have been mentioned in the case. The lawsuit centers on whether the Trump Sr. and his business misled banks and insurers by inflating his net worth on financial statements.

“I rely on professionals and CPAs” on certain matters, Trump Jr. said.

The Trumps deny wrongdoing and are fighting to keep the business intact.

The ex-president’s eldest son is kicking off a blockbuster stretch as the trial in New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James’ lawsuit enters its second month.

James, a Democrat, alleges that Donald Trump, his company and top executives, including sons Eric Trump 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.

Eric Trump is expected to take the stand next. The former president, family patriarch and 2024 Republican presidential front-runner in polls of GOP voters is slated to testify Monday. State lawyers are expected to call his eldest daughter, ex-Trump Organization executive and White House advisor Ivanka Trump, as their final witness on Nov. 8. On Wednesday, her lawyer filed an appeal challenging a judge’s decision to require her testimony.

Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are both executive vice presidents at the Trump Organization and defendants in James’ lawsuit. Eric Trump has oversight of the company’s operations, while his brother has been involved in running its 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.

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


Like their father, the brothers have denied wrongdoing.

Eric Trump has spent several days at the trial, often on the days his father has attended. He has commented on it 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!”

Trump Jr. hadn’t attended the trial before Wednesday, but since testimony began Oct. 2, he has 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,” 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.”

His father blasted Engoron on Truth Social on Wednesday as a Trump-hating “political hack” who’s “doing the dirty work for the Democrat Party.”

“Leave my children alone, Engoron. You are a disgrace to the legal profession!” he wrote in one of several posts.

Building to Trump Jr. and Eric Trump’s testimony, state lawyers have asked other witnesses about the brothers’ roles leading the Trump Organization and their involvement, over the years, in valuing their father’s properties and preparing his financial statements. Their names also appear 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 townhomes that were never built at a Trump-owned golf course in the New York City suburbs. McArdle said Eric Trump arrived at a “more lofty value” than he had for the project, and that using the scion’s higher number wouldn’t have been credible.

Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have already been heard from at the trial in snippets from previous 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, 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 his father’s financial statements.

Trump Jr. 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” that he cared and was “passionate about” while sharing management responsibilities with his brother.

“I’m a construction, concrete and on-the-ground operations guy,” he 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.”

The former president attended the trial’s first three days in early October and showed up four days over the last two weeks, but his campaign schedule suggests it’s unlikely he’ll return to see his sons testify.

In his past appearances, Trump has 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 incurred $15,000 in fines for twice violating the judge’s limited gag order with comments about a member of the court staff.