Donald Trump's sons defiant in New York fraud trial, try to shift blame to accountants

Donald Trump Jr on 2 November
Donald Trump Jr has denied any wrongdoing or involvement in the Trump Organization's financial statements

Donald Trump's two eldest sons took the stand in a New York court, testifying in a civil fraud trial that threatens to engulf the family's property empire.

Prosecutors say Eric and Donald Trump Jr played key roles in the Trump Organization's efforts to exaggerate its wealth and falsify records.

In court, the brothers denied wrongdoing and sought to shift the blame onto the company's accountants.

Their sister Ivanka is also expected to testify later in November.

The judge in the case, Arthur Engoron, has already ruled that the Trump Organization committed massive fraud.

The trial will ultimately determine what civil penalty should be imposed. New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking a fine of $250m (£204m) and a ban on the former president and his adult sons doing business in the state.

In his testimony on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, Mr Trump Jr frequently denied having worked on the financial statements at the centre of the case or having knowledge of how the statements and other important business documents were prepared.

The graduate of The Wharton School, an Ivy League business college, is executive vice-president at the Trump Organization, along with Eric.

He frequently stated that the documents were the responsibility of the company's accountants, the Mazars firm, and other employees.

"They have as much, if not more, information and details than I ever would have had," he said.

Asked whether he ever took any steps to ensure the documents he was signing off on were accurate, Mr Trump Jr replied: "I can't recall".

At one point, Judge Arthur Engoron attempted to cut to the heart of the matter, asking Mr Trump Jr directly whether he had anything to do with the documents.

"No I did not, your honour," he said.

While his older brother projected confidence and made jokes in court, Eric was far more subdued and had several tense interactions with prosecutors during questioning.

The 39-year-old often refused to provide "yes" or "no" answers to prosecutors' questions, to their great frustration.

Eric Trump, navy suit and blue tie, gives thumbs up
Eric Trump testified after his brother Donald Trump Jr., and also sought to distance himself from the Trump organization's financial statements.

Like his brother, Eric attempted to distance himself from financial documents pertaining to his father and the wider Trump Organization, particularly statements of financial condition.

Andrew Amer, a senior lawyer with the New York attorney general's office, grilled him for several hours, displaying emails in which the Trump son appeared to contradict statements that he did not have "anything" to do with his father's financial statements.

In the emails, Eric Trump agreed to assist Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney with information about a property in Westchester, New York, for a financial statement.

Still, Eric Trump said he was not directly involved in preparing the document and did not pay particular attention to how the information was used.

"I didn't work on the statement of financial condition," he said. "I've been very, very clear about that."

Tensions flared toward the end of the day over another matter: Judge Engoron's law clerk.

The judge threatened to expand a gag order he had imposed on former President Donald Trump over a social media post about the clerk to include the family's attorneys.

Trump attorney Christopher Kise had made a reference to the female law clerk during an objection.

Judge Engoron, who has been protective of staff members involved in the high-profile case, ventured the reference "might be misogyny".

The admonishment and threat of expanded gag order did not sit well with the Trumps' lawyers, including Mr Kise, who said he felt the New York judge was biased against him.

"I do often feel like…I'm fighting two adversaries," Mr Kise said. "I'm not a misogynist. I'm very happily married and I have a 17-year-old daughter."

The Trumps' female attorney, Alina Habba, told the judge she did not believe Mr Kise to be misogynistic and said prosecutors needed to "move on" from their line of questioning.

"We've been here all day and have gotten, frankly, not very far," she said.

Former President Trump is expected to testify in the case early next week. He has previously appeared in court to watch the testimony of his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

He, like his sons, has denied any wrongdoing and earlier this week called Judge Engoron "a disgrace to the legal profession".

His daughter, Ivanka Trump - who is no longer listed as a co-defendant in the case - is expected to testify on 8 November.

On Wednesday, however, she appealed against the order to testify. Her attorney has argued that she has not lived or worked in New York since 2017.