The first trip to the witness stand in the civil fraud case against Donald Trump Jr. lasted less than two hours for his father and others — but the New York attorney general’s office made significant progress by uncovering useful testimony.
The fraud case brought by the New York attorney general’s office hinged on annual financial statements the family business, the Trump Organization, sent to banks and insurance companies to represent the value of its assets.
Donald Trump Jr., a Trump Organization executive, testified this month that he expected Deutsche Bank to rely on the accuracy of the reports. A lawyer for the attorney general’s office indicated it had been alerted by Forbes magazine to the errors in the forms, but told its outside accounting firm, Mazars USA, that there were no false reports.
Questions about Deutsche Bank go to the heart of the case. The New York attorney general must show that the financial statements were “material” — in layman’s terms, that they made a difference — and that the defendants intended to commit fraud.
When a state attorney used versions of the word “intent” or “purpose” in his questions, Mr. Trump was cautious. Asked if he relied on Deutsche Bank financial statements, he did not answer directly, saying bankers do their own due diligence.
Earlier, when asked if he “depends” on banks to take the certification of statements seriously, he said “absolutely”.
He also denied referring to the letter he sent to outside accountants certifying the accuracy of the financial statements as a “cover-your-butt letter.”
Mr. Trump’s testimony was split over two days. After some preliminary biographical questions, he began denying his involvement in the annual financial statements, even though the language in them suggested he was partially responsible.
Asked if he had worked on the 2017 version of the report, Mr. Trump said: “I didn’t. Accountants worked on it. That is what we pay them for.”
When asked if he knew anything about an industry standard, Mr Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, beyond what he learned in college, Mr. Trump said, “No. That’s what I hire CPAs for.”
He added: “These people had incredibly intimate knowledge and I trusted them.”