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Ivanka Trump testifies in New York fraud case against family business

NEW YORK — Ivanka Trump testified Wednesday of limited awareness of financial statements central to a civil trial accusing her father, two of her brothers and their namesake business of fraud, capping off a striking stretch that saw four members of the family questioned under oath.

Like her brothers, who testified last week, Ivanka Trump spent her time on the witness stand at New York State Supreme Court distancing herself from the financial documents at the heart of the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).

In a lawsuit last year, James accused former president Donald Trump and his company of knowingly inflating the value of assets in financial statements submitted to banks and insurance companies to secure better terms.

James is seeking the recovery of at least $250 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains and has asked New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron to impose severe restrictions on how the Trump Organization can operate in the state. Because this is a civil case, none of the defendants face potential prison time.

Ivanka Trump was asked during her testimony by a member of James’s team about a Trump Park Avenue lease that she had with her husband, Jared Kushner, and pressed on whether it was improperly accounted for on one of her father’s financial statements.

“As I had told you a year and a half ago, I wasn’t involved in this [financial statement], so I can’t say what it took into account or didn’t take into account,” said Trump, who left the company in 2017 to serve as a White House adviser during her father’s term in office.

She testified that she was aware that her father had financial statements prepared but could not speak to how they were compiled.

Trump’s time on the stand was a marked contrast to her father’s own testimony two days earlier. When he testified Monday, the senior Trump was animated and agitated, criticizing the judge and James’s lawsuit. Ivanka Trump, by comparison, remained calm and polite throughout.

Unlike her father and two adult brothers she is no longer a defendant in the case. She had been initially named as one, but an appellate court dismissed the claims against her in June.

Her testimony covered the key role she played in major Trump Organization transactions, including the acquisition of the landmark Old Post Office Pavilion in D.C. The Trumps leased it from the General Services Administration (GSA), and they operated a hotel there that served as a pivotal hub for events and people orbiting the family throughout Trump’s term in office.

Lawyers with the state attorney general’s office presented a 2011 letter from the GSA that highlighted the agency’s concerns with a Trump financial statement. The document was provided to show his worthiness to develop and manage a luxury hotel in the historic structure in downtown Washington.

The GSA’s letter said the financial statement from Trump departed from generally accepted accounting rules and did not account for income tax liabilities.

Ivanka Trump testified that she was in the loop on discussions about addressing the GSA’s concerns but said she didn’t remember specifically how the issue was handled. She repeatedly said her memory had been jogged in many cases by the attorney general’s documents.

She also spoke about recalling one “in-person meeting” with the GSA that was held in Washington, primarily to discuss the Trump Organization’s plans for the Old Post Office’s renovations.

The meeting “was not about financial statements or anything granular like that, but a big picture discussion of the vision and our experience from a construction perspective,” she said.

When questioned by attorneys for the Trump side, Ivanka Trump discussed the praise that she and her father received from their contacts at Deutsche Bank, which issued loans to them that the attorney general has said were obtained improperly.

“She expressed tremendous excitement to have our account,” Ivanka Trump said, referring to her Deutsche Bank banker, Rosemary Vrablic.

After her testimony concluded Wednesday afternoon, James’s side they were resting their case, with the caveat that they could again call Allen Weisselberg, who had been the longtime top financial officer of the Trump Organization. They also could put on a rebuttal case after Trump’s side calls its own witnesses.

At day’s end, meanwhile, attorneys for the Trump side said they planned to argue Thursday to have the case decided in their favor. James’s office said it planned to argue against letting some of the Trump side’s witnesses take the stand. Attorneys for Trump are expected to begin calling their witnesses Monday.

Trump’s side has said no fraud took place, nothing illegal happened and there were no victims.

The trial has cast an ongoing spotlight on the Trump family and their businesses, something that has visibly irritated Donald Trump. While under no obligation to show up in person before his testimony, Trump has attended the proceedings multiple times and been intensely critical of the case on his way in and out of the courtroom.

Trump, a Republican, is seeking another term in office and has said this lawsuit and the four criminal cases against him are all politically motivated.

Engoron ruled before the trial that Trump and his company broadly committed fraud. Now the state justice is hearing the case without a jury and will determine any potential penalties.

The courtroom atmosphere Wednesday was much less charged than it was Monday, when Trump testified for much of the day and clashed with Engoron. Trump criticized the judge’s pretrial ruling and complained that it was “a very unfair trial.” Engoron told the former president to refrain from extraneous comments and urged one of Trump’s attorneys to “control your client.”

Trump also said that the statements of financial condition at issue in the case were actually downplaying his true net worth and that banks were served with a disclaimer on his statements that invited them to conduct their own financial analyses of the company.

The trial paused Tuesday for Election Day, making Ivanka Trump the first witness called after her father.

Berman reported from Washington.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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