Ivanka Trump arrives for the civil fraud trial of her father former President Donald Trump at New York State Supreme Court on November 08, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of former President Donald Trump, began testifying Wednesday in the $250 million civil fraud trial that threatens her family’s business empire.
Ivanka, who had tried in vain to avoid the witness stand, was asked about various aspects of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case accusing Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and others of falsely inflating asset values to get tax benefits and other financial perks.
In addition to seeking a remarkable quarter of a billion dollars in damages, James wants the court to permanently bar the ex-president and his sons from running a business in New York.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the press as she arrives for the Trump Organization civil fraud trial and testimony by Ivanka Trump, daughter of former US President Donald Trump, at the New York State Supreme Court in New York City on November 8, 2023.
Timothy A. Clary | Afp | Getty Images
“We uncovered this scheme and she benefited from it personally,” James said of Ivanka Trump outside Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.
The AG said she expects Ivanka “will do all that she can to separate herself” from the Trump Organization during her testimony. But “she is inextricably tied” to the company, James said.
Ivanka Trump was originally listed as a co-defendant, but she was dismissed from the case in June after a New York appeals court found that the claims against her fell outside a statute of limitations.
Judge Arthur Engoron, who will deliver verdicts in the no-jury trial, has already found the defendants liable for fraudulently misstating the values of real estate properties and other assets on key financial forms. His pretrial ruling ordered the cancellation of their New York business certificates, though that order is on hold while the trial proceeds.
The trial itself will determine how much the defendants will be ordered to pay in damages or other penalties. The judge will also evaluate six other claims in James’ lawsuit that have yet to be resolved.
Ivanka Trump was an executive vice president for development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization until 2017, when she joined her father’s presidential administration as a senior advisor. She “negotiated and secured financing” for company properties and “directed all areas of the company’s real estate and hotel management platform,” according to James’ lawsuit.
She is expected to be questioned about loans for the Old Post Office building — the former site of Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel — and the Trump Doral property, both of which she is credited with having negotiated.
The former Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building is seen on May 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Trump family completed the hotel’s sale Wednesday and the hotel will reopen as a Waldorf Astoria.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
She is also expected to be asked about the valuation of her penthouse apartment and her father’s introduction to the personal wealth management team at Deutsche Bank.
Ivanka’s testimony follows that of her father on Monday, who angrily lashed out at James, Engoron and his other self-perceived “haters” from the witness stand.
Trump also repeatedly argued that a disclaimer notice on his annual statements of financial condition provided him with total protection against legal liability if the figures were inaccurate.
“That’s why we have a disclaimer clause in case there is a mistake,” Trump said. “There is a disclaimer clause, where you don’t have to get sued by the attorney general of New York.”
But the judge, Engoron, has already rejected Trump’s interpretation of liability.
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The clause “does not say what defendants say it says, does not rise to the level of an enforceable disclaimer, and cannot be used to insulate fraud as to facts peculiarly within defendants’ knowledge,” Engoron wrote in his pretrial ruling on Sept. 26.
Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who took over the Trump Organization as executive vice presidents after their father became president in 2017, were called to the stand last week. Both testified that they relied largely on the company accountants to prepare the annual financial statements and approve valuations.
Engoron on Oct. 27 ordered Ivanka Trump to comply with subpoenas for her testimony without any limitations.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s son and co-defendant, Eric Trump, testifies during the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., November 2, 2023 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Ivanka Trump appealed, and asked a New York appeals court to temporarily pause Engoron’s order. Her attorney argued that Ivanka, who lives in Florida, is “beyond the jurisdiction” of the New York court and would suffer “irreparable harm” if forced to testify.
The attorney also asserted that Ivanka Trump, who has three children, would face “undue hardship” if she has to appear “in the middle of a school week.”
Some legal experts swiftly chimed in to deride that argument as a poor excuse to avoid a court summons — especially for Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, whose combined net worth has been estimated to exceed $1 billion and can likely afford adequate child care.
This is developing news. Please check back for updates.