Not a big ticket: Public stays away in droves as Donald Trump Jr. kicks off defense case at NY fraud trial

Donald Trump, Jr., at the Trump civil fraud trial in New York.
Donald Trump, Jr., at the Trump civil fraud trial in New York.Reuters/Pool
  • Donald Trump, Jr. testified again in the NY fraud trial Monday – this time as a defense witness.

  • A defense lawyer led him through an hours-long description of his father's "spectacular" properties.

  • Usually a hot ticket, Monday's trial testimony was sparsely attended.

His father might have called it a big, beautiful crowd – maybe the biggest, most beautiful ever.

But the courtroom was barely half full on Monday, as Donald Trump, Jr., climbed to the witness stand for a second round of testimony in the Trump civil fraud trial in New York.

Just four members of the public queued up to watch Donald Trump's namesake son testify, for three and a half hours, as the first defense witness.

"We were shocked there was no one here," said one of the four, Ralph Baker, a retiree from Manhattan's Upper East Side. "We didn't think we'd get in, but I guess he's not that popular."

Donald Trump, Jr. was in court Monday as his father's cheerleader-in-chief. He used the word "spectacular" at least a dozen times in describing the GOP front-runner's real estate portfolio.

Defense lawyers attempted to limit Donald Trump, Jr.'s cross-examination risk by keeping his testimony tightly focused on praise for the Trump Organization. Trial rules limit cross examination to topics raised on direct examination only.

Despite that constraint, Assistant Attorney General Colleen Faherty did get in a few jabs during a lightning-quick cross after the lunch break.

During his morning testimony, Donald Trump, Jr., had mentioned that his father's Los Angeles area golf course fronted the Pacific Ocean.

"Didn't the 18th hole literally fall into the ocean?" Faherty asked about that oceanfront golf course.

Donald Trump, Jr., conceded that this was true. The AG has argued that Trump fraudulently exaggerated the value of the golf course, even though this 1999 landslide had stymied Trump's plans to develop oceanfront lots on the property.

On direct, Donald Trump, Jr., had extolled his father's development of the "historic" skyscraper at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. On cross, Faherty noted a November 10 Bloomberg story that revealed serious current problems with the property's $122.6 million mortgage.

When defense lawyer Christopher Kise objected, calling the Bloomberg story irrelevant, the judge presiding over the non-jury trial laughed out loud.

"You're going to start questioning relevance?" asked the judge, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron. "I just gave you a whole morning of irrelevance," he said, a reference to the previous three hours of Donald Trump, Jr.'s testimony.

For the most part, this testimony kept both father and son safe by sticking to descriptions of the senior Trump's "vision" without any off-script tangents.

"He's an artist with real estate," Donald Trump, Jr. said of his father, a business "visionary" who "plays the long game," but still "can tinker with the green" of a golf course just to "move a tree."

A Trump Organization vice president, Donald Trump, Jr., is not just a witness, but a defendant, as are his father and his brother, Eric Trump, in the state fraud case, which seeks more than $250 million in civil penalties.

State Attorney General Letitia James hopes to bar the three Trumps from ever running a business in New York again, all as punishment for what a judge has already ruled was widespread fraud – including as much as $3.6 billion in exaggerations a year – in a decade of Trump's annual net-worth statements.

All three Trumps are on the defense witness list, despite all having already testified earlier this month, when they were subpoenaed to the stand in the state's direct case.

"For four decades, the Trump Organization has set new standards of excellence," Donald Trump, Jr., testified in the non-jury trial, beginning his time on stand by reading from a defense PowerPoint presentation under the guidance of Trump attorney Clifford Robert.

The slide show – a combination memory-aid and promotional brochure, complete with dozens of photos – prompted objections and wry scorn from lawyers for the attorney general.

Faherty noted before cross-examining Donald Trump, Jr., that during his testimony earlier this month, "his memory was fleeting."

"Since they mentioned the Yukon gold rush, is there a waiver of the statute of limitations?" another one of the state attorney general's lawyers, Andrew Amer, joked early on in the slide show, after the witness extolled his great-grandfather Frederick's beginnings as a Klondike hotelier.

No mention was made of the so-called "sporting ladies" the first Trump hotels accommodated for lonely gold miners.

The scion remained his same, quippy self as he testified, despite being the least biggest draw so far in the more typically standing-room-only trial, now starting its seventh week of testimony.

When the judge told him, "Welcome back," Donald Trump, Jr. answered with a joke.

"I'd say it's good to be here," he said. "But I assume the attorney general might sue me for perjury if I said that."

The attorney general, who has been aggressive in her pursuit of the Trump, was in her usual front-row seat and the trial, and appeared to smile at that.

For much of the morning testimony, the son celebrated his father's real estate acumen and the "spectacular" Trump Organization asset portfolio, images of which flashed across large overhead screens.

"It was spectacular for quite some time," Donald Trump, Jr., said of Wollman Rink in Central Park, which the Trump Organization operated for the city from 1986 to 2021.

"A spectacular building," Donald Trump, Jr., said of the Old Post Office in Washington, DC.

"It's a spectacular example of a home," he testified of the Seven Springs estate in New York's Westchester County, a ritzy suburb of New York City. The AG alleges that between 2011 and 2014, Trump wildly inflated the value of the property in net-worth statements by including the value of never-built luxury mansions.

"They're extra spectacular — it's truly a mechanical work of art," he said of the massive vaults inside the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street, which the Federal Reserve once used to safeguard gold.

The AG alleges that between 2012 and 2015, Trump fraudulently doubled the value of his stake in the Wall Street property in net-worth statements.

The defense has estimated their case will take through mid-December to present.

Read the original article on Business Insider