NEW YORK – Eric Trump is expected to return to the witness stand today for a second day of testimony in an ongoing civil fraud trial threatening the future of his family’s real estate empire.
The trial, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accuses former President Donald Trump and his Trump Organization of fraudulently inflating property values to obtain better loan terms and insurance rates.
Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, has maintained under oath that he was ignorant of the alleged fraudulent practices.
However, emails and other evidence presented in court seem to indicate his involvement in financial estimate discussions for properties like apartment buildings, golf courses, and other assets.
Eric Claims No Recollection of Valuation Talks
While on the stand Thursday, the younger Trump stated he either does not remember the valuation conversations outlined by prosecutors or was only peripherally involved, focusing instead on other aspects of the company’s operations.
Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that the Trumps and their organization did in fact illegally exaggerate asset values. The ongoing trial will determine what penalties they may face as a result.
James Seeking Steep Fines, Business Ban
Attorney General James is pushing for Trump Organization penalties up to $250 million, as well as a permanent prohibition on Donald, Eric, and Ivanka Trump conducting business in New York.
The former president has vocally rejected accusations of unlawful activity, accusing James and Judge Engoron of political motivation. His repeated public criticism of court staff has earned Trump $15,000 in fines for violating a limited gag order.
On Thursday, Engoron threatened to expand the gag order to Trump’s lawyers after one mentioned the judge’s clerk by name. Trump himself is scheduled to testify Monday, followed by his daughter Ivanka on Wednesday.
Trump Organization Lawyer Claims Donald Was ‘Betrayed’
Also Thursday, Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles said Trump was justified in relying on the expertise of company accountants and finance chiefs who have since testified they helped produce the false asset valuations.
She said Trump was “betrayed by the people he trusted to tell him the truth.” Necheles added, “They had all the information and did not give him the right information.”
Cohen Details Trump’s Role in Alleged Fraud
Earlier in the trial, former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen provided dramatic testimony that Trump personally directed him to inflate property values.
Donald Trump Jr., who with Eric ran the company while their father was president, also took the stand this week. He asserted he had little involvement in the disputed valuations.
Legal Troubles Mount as Trump Eyes 2024 Bid
The high-stakes New York trial comes as Donald Trump faces additional legal jeopardy on multiple fronts, even while leading early polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump currently faces a total of 91 criminal charges in four separate cases. Two involve his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and remain in power.
The brazen attempt to obstruct Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory led to an unprecedented second impeachment of Trump. The Justice Department has since hit him with charges of obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Classified Documents Investigation
Federal investigators are also probing Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office. The FBI recovered thousands of government records from the Florida residence in August, including highly sensitive materials.
A special counsel has been appointed to determine if Trump or anyone else should face indictment. Recent subpoenas suggest prosecutors are focused on possible obstruction of that investigation.
Tax Fraud Indictment in New York
Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump, the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg with running a 15-year tax fraud scheme.
Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August and agreed to testify against the company at trial next year. He remains on paid leave from the Trump Organization.
Legal Jeopardy Unlikely to Impact Trump’s 2024 Plans
Despite his snowballing legal predicaments, the former president continues to hold a commanding early lead in the race for the 2024 GOP nomination.
However, his alleged misconduct has become a prime target for potential Republican rivals. A convicted Trump would likely face immense pressure to drop out of the running.
For now, he appears determined to push forward with another White House run regardless of the outcome in court. But the final verdict in the civil fraud trial, and others yet to come, may have much to say about Donald Trump’s political future.