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Donald Trump's New York trial continues with testimony from sons Eric and Donald Jr.


The two older sons of former President Donald Trump spent the day in a New York courtroom. They talked about how they ran the Trump Organization after their father became president but distanced themselves from fraudulent financial statements and declarations to banks. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courtroom. Hey there.


SUMMERS: Good. Andrea, you had a real look inside the Trump Organization today. What did you learn?

BERNSTEIN: That's right. So we've watched extensive testimony from the organization's former chief financial officer, its accountants and its appraisers. But what we saw today was the two men who were running the company from the time their father became president in 2017. And on the one hand, both Don Jr. and Eric Trump said, yes, they were responsible for the worldwide operations of the company. But when asked for specifics, they insisted they were barely familiar with essential documents, such as the statements of financial condition that are at the heart of this case.

SUMMERS: Say more about that. Give us an example.

BERNSTEIN: For example, Donald Trump Jr. had power of attorney for his father and was the trustee, along with former CFO Allen Weisselberg, in charge of the entity that held the company's assets when Trump was president, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust. And as such, he had to sign a letter to the firms outside accountants, Mazars USA, that they were giving them raw data that was free of material misrepresentations, or, more plainly, lies. But Don Jr. said he actually got all the information from the accountants, prompting the assistant AG to ask, you relied on Mazars to make representations to Mazars? He answered, that's why we have accountants. The AG then went through a series of documents. And, basically, Don Jr.'s answer about all of them was the same. He didn't prepare them. He hadn't read them. He signed them on the advice of his lawyers or his accountants.

SUMMERS: OK. That's Don Jr. What about Eric Trump?

BERNSTEIN: So in a move that might have come straight from Logan Roy, the patriarch in the TV series "Succession," Donald Trump made Don Jr. the trustee of his trust, but it was Eric Trump who's actually been running the Trump Organization day to day. He established early on that while Trump was president, there was no one above him in the company. But Eric disclaimed any knowledge of the existence of statements of financial conditions, which we now know to be false, from the outset of his testimony, saying, quote, "I never had anything to do with them." He added, I was responsible for building properties and pouring concrete. This was not in my domain.

But the assistant AG kept asking him about how he could run such a large company without being involved in these statements. And at one point, Eric Trump erupted, saying, quote, "We were a major organization, a massive real estate organization." And he added, of course I was clear he had financial statements. Absolutely.

SUMMERS: And Andrea, I mean, if Eric Trump was running the day-to-day operations of the company, was there evidence that he was aware of false values?

BERNSTEIN: Well, all afternoon, the AG's office presented evidence that Eric Trump was involved in working with an appraiser to value a property north of New York called Seven Springs. The development didn't work out, so the Trumps decided to donate the property to New York state for a tax benefit. And the property was valued at a very high number, meaning the Trumps got a $21 million tax deduction, nearly 10 times what they had initially paid for the property.

At one point, Eric Trump referred to a calendar entry he had set up on the appraisal as, quote, "very consistent with my OCD personality." But then the AG played Eric Trump's videotaped deposition where he said, quote, "I have not been involved in the appraisal work on that property." And when confronted with this apparent contradiction, Eric Trump said something else - I was involved, but to a very small point. His testimony continues tomorrow.

SUMMERS: NPR's Andrea Bernstein, thanks so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Andrea Bernstein
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