After the New York attorney general last week rested her $250 million civil fraud case against Donald Trump and top Trump Organization executives, lawyers for the former president will present the defense's case beginning Monday with new testimony from Trump's eldest son and co-defendant.
Donald Trump Jr. faced questions from a state attorney in the trial less than two weeks ago, distancing himself from the allegedly fraudulent financial statements at the center of the case and pinning responsibility on the experts and accountants who worked with the Trump Organization.
"I signed off on a document that [our accountants] prepared with intimate knowledge, and, as a trustee, I have an obligation to listen to those who are experts -- who have an expertise of these things," Trump Jr. testified.
The first witness to testify as part of the defense case, Trump Jr. not only will have the opportunity to clarify outstanding issues from his previous testimony but also spearhead the effort to tilt the trial in favor of his father.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who alleges that Donald Trump and his adult sons inflated their assets to get better loan terms, rested her case against Trump on Thursday after presenting more than 20 witnesses. Judge Arthur Engoron, who already decided in a partial summary judgment that the Trumps used fraudulent documents to conduct business, reiterated his finding that Trump committed fraud during an oral argument on Friday.
The judge listed 10 examples of internal contradictions in Trump's financial statements, before saying, "You can't have a correct statement with these kinds of errors."
Donald Trump and his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have appealed Engoron's pretrial ruling and have criticized the case as politically motivated.
"Before even having a day in court, I'm apparently guilty of fraud for relying on my accountants to do -- wait for it -- accounting," Trump Jr. said after leaving court on Nov. 2.
'New York pace'
"I should have worn makeup," Trump Jr. joked as news photographers snapped shots of him sitting alongside his lawyers on his first day on the witness stand two weeks ago.
The quip typified Trump Jr.'s courtroom demeanor, as he casually answered questions and joked with Engoron on the witness stand.
"I moved to Florida, but I kept the New York pace," he said after Engoron asked him to speak slower at one point.
Asked about the financial statements at the center of the state's case, which Trump Jr. certified while leading the revocable trust his father used to guard against business conflicts while serving as president, Trump Jr. testified that he relied on the external accountants who prepared the document.
"The accountants worked on it. That's what we pay them to do," he said.
While Trump Jr. distanced himself from the creation of his father's statements, he acknowledged that he could have unknowingly provided valuations that were used by accountants in the documents.
"I could have discussed the details of a deal, which they would then infer is going to generate 'X' number of revenue. They may have done that a hundred times with me to get a number, but I may not have known that it was going to be used in aggregate for the statement of financial condition," he said.
The defense's case
In arguments earlier in the trial, Trump attorney Chris Kise offered a potential preview of how the defense may pursue its case.
"The claims of the attorney general involve only successful and profitable loan transactions," Kise said. "There's no victim, there's no complainant, there's no injury."
In addition to pointing out that the banks made money from their loans to Trump, Kise said that the state failed to prove that the lenders would have not loaned money to Trump had they known about the inflated assets.
Defense attorney Jesus Suarez pressed this point in his cross-examination of former Trump Organization VP Ivanka Trump when he asked her what Deutsche Bank executives told her about doing business with her family's firm.
"I was constantly told by [a Deutsche Bank executive] and members of her team how much they appreciated the relationship and were seeking to grow it," Ivanka Trump said.
'Path of least resistance'
Judge Engoron on Thursday handed the defense a victory, denying a motion from the New York attorney general to preclude four expert witnesses from testifying for the defense. The judge, however, said he would prevent the witnesses from trying to debate facts already established in the case.
"I am not going to take the path of the least resistance. If it's clearly irrelevant, I am not going to allow it," Engoron said.
The looming threat from Engoron to limit testimony could present a challenge for the defense, which has already accused the judge of being biased toward the state.
"If we are going to operate under two sets of standards, that's fine. But I would respectfully suggest that that's incorrect," Kise said last week when Engoron tried to shorten Ivanka Trump's defense questioning.
"I continue to object to your constant insinuations that I have some sort of double standard here. That is just not true," Engoron responded.
"You've won the battle," the judge told defense counsel after clearing the way for their expert witnesses to take the stand. "We'll see if you win the war."
Kise has said that the defense plans to rest its case by Dec. 15.
Donald Trump Jr. to headline defense's case in $250 million civil fraud trial originally appeared on abcnews.go.com