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Donald Trump Jr. takes the witness stand in New York civil fraud trial

Donald Trump Jr. waits to testify in New York Supreme Court, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in New York.
Seth Wenig
/
AP
Donald Trump Jr. waits to testify in New York Supreme Court, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in New York.

Updated November 1, 2023 at 4:43 PM ET

Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of the Trump Organization and a son of former President Donald Trump, took the witness stand Wednesday to begin testifying in a civil trial accusing him, his brother and his father of knowingly committing fraud.

Colleen Faherty, the lawyer for the attorney general, kicked off questions by asking Trump Jr. about his prior roles in the Trump Organization and the Trump Revocable Trust. She also asked about the hierarchy in the business and where it placed him, his brother, his father and Allen Weissleberg, the former Trump Organization chief financial officer, who are all defendants in the trial.

Trump Jr. testified that he didn't recall being involved in the compilation of the statements of financial condition for Donald Trump on any year, but he had the responsibility to sign off on the documents. He said he relied on others, like Weissleberg, to vet the documents.

His testimony is expected to continue on Thursday and be followed by that of his younger brother Eric, another vice president of the family's landmark business.

The former president is expected to take the witness stand next Monday, marking the first time he is formally called up to publicly testify in any of his pending trials.

Ivanka Trump, the former president's daughter, is also scheduled to testify next week. She is not a defendant.

The family will answer questions before New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the trial. Engoron has already ruled that the Trump Organization committed fraud. However, several issues remain to be resolved at trial, including whether the fraud was committed on purpose and how much of a penalty should be paid if the defendants are found liable.

Former Trump allies have already testified

Last week, Engoron heard testimony from Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer and known "fixer" who turned against his former boss.

During his testimony, Cohen said that Trump had asked him to "increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily" selected.

Cohen said his responsibility, along with that of Weisselberg, "was to reverse-engineer the very different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the numbers" that Trump had asked for.

But Cohen's past convictions, which include lying under oath to Congress and to a bank, along with his former guilty pleas to tax evasion and breaking campaign finance laws, were brought up by both the attorney general's and Trump's lawyers.

Earlier in the trial, Engoron heard testimony from Weisselberg, a defendant in the trial. He is accused of signing off on fraudulent financial statements in question.

One of the statements he was asked about in court is related to the former president's own penthouse.

According to documents shown during the trial, the Trump Tower triplex was marked as being almost 11,000 square feet in 1994, not the 30,000 square feet that appears on financial statements used in later years.

A Forbes magazine article originally shed light on the discrepancy in 2017. Weisselberg testified that he didn't pay attention to this specific property. He said he couldn't remember whether he discussed the financial statements with Trump as they were finalized.

Eric Trump stands in the hallway outside the New York City courtroom where his family's civil fraud case is underway, on Oct. 25.
Ted Shaffrey / AP
/
AP
Eric Trump stands in the hallway outside the New York City courtroom where his family's civil fraud case is underway, on Oct. 25.

Gag order still active

Trump was fined$10,000 and called up to the witness stand last week for violating a gag order put in place by Engoron during the first week of the trial.

The order prohibits any parties from making comments about any of the judge's staff.

Trump was already fined $5,000 for violating the same gag order after a Truth Social post about the judge's clerk was made and stayed on the Trump campaign website.

"I am very protective of my staff," Engoron said, and threatened future "severe sanctions."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.