NEW YORK (AP) — Ivanka Trump didn’t want to testify. But on the stand Wednesday in her father’s civil fraud trial, she took the opportunity to contend the family business has “overdelivered,” even as she kept her distance from financial documents that New York state says were fraudulent.
Former President Donald Trump’s elder daughter capped a major stretch in the lawsuit that could reshape his real estate empire. She followed her father and her brothers Eric and Donald Trump Jr. to the witness stand, and the New York attorney general’s office rested its case after her testimony. The defense gets its turn now.
Ivanka Trump has been in her father’s inner circle in both business and politics, as an executive vice president at the family’s Trump Organization and then as a senior White House adviser. But she testified that she had no role in his personal financial statements, which New York Attorney General Letitia James claims were fraudulently inflated and deceived banks and lenders.
“Those were not things that I was privy to,” beyond having seen “a few documents and correspondence” that referred to them, Ivanka Trump said.
The ex-president and Republican 2024 front-runner denies any wrongdoing. He insisted in court Monday that his financial statements actually greatly underestimated his net worth, that any discrepancies were minor, that a disclaimer absolved him of liability anyway and that “this case is a disgrace.”
In even-tempered testimony that provided a counterpoint to her father’s caustic turn on the stand, Ivanka Trump touched on some of the same notes that the ex-president has hammered inside court and out — portraying the Trump Organization as a successful developer of big-dollar projects that satisfied its lenders.
The Doral golf resort in Florida? A “Herculean” renovation undertaken to refurbish a faded treasure that Donald Trump had visited in childhood, his daughter testified.
The company’s historic Old Post Office building-turned-hotel in Washington? “A labor of love” to turn a dilapidated building into a super-luxury hotel, while navigating approvals from a raft of different government agencies.
“They were complicated projects, and I believe we overdelivered on every metric,” she said.
But when questions about the post office project turned to questions that its government owners raised about some aspects of her father’s financial statements, she said she didn’t recall that.
The agency overseeing the bidding flagged those concerns in a December 2011 letter to her, and Trump Organization executives looped her in as they prepared a response ahead of a presentation to officials in Washington. An agency document showed the company addressed the issues in its presentation, which she attended.
But Ivanka Trump said she didn’t recall “that they discussed financial statements specifically.” Rather, she remembered talk of “our vision for the project” and the company’s experience, with her father mentioning his renovation of New York’s famous Plaza Hotel.
She retained a stake in the Washington hotel lease until its 2022 sale, which netted her $4 million.
Unlike her father and his adult sons, Ivanka Trump is no longer a defendant in the case, and her lawyers had tried to prevent her from having to testify.
Ordered to do so, she said she largely didn’t recall the documents and details she was asked about. During about four hours of polite answers punctuated by broad smiles, she once thanked a lawyer in Attorney General James’ office for bringing up the Old Post Office proposal because it “brought back a lot of memories.”
“Ivanka Trump was cordial, she was disciplined, she was controlled, and she was very courteous,” James, a Democrat, said outside court. But, she added: “This case is about fraudulent statements of financial condition that she benefited from. She was enriched. And clearly, you cannot distance yourself from that fact.”
James’ legal team and Trump defense lawyers repeatedly tangled Wednesday over the scope of Ivanka Trump’s questioning, including whether she could be asked about 2013 emails that included her husband, Jared Kushner, in discussions about potential Trump company loans.
Kushner — a real estate executive himself — didn’t work for the Trump Organization. But he had introduced his wife to a Deutsche Bank banker as the Trumps were seeking financing to buy and overhaul Doral, Ivanka Trump testified. Because he also worked in real estate, they would sometimes exchange ideas and advice, she said.
She became the point person in establishing a lending relationship with Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management arm. It eventually extended the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, with terms that required Donald Trump to submit his financial statements each year.
Amid such assets as Trump Tower, the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and Doral, the financial statements included a Trump-owned building on New York’s Park Avenue. Ivanka Trump leased and had options to buy two apartments there, and the state’s lawyers contend that her father offered her a steep discount while claiming on his financial statements that the apartments were worth far more.
She testified that she invested over $7.5 million in one of the apartments, a penthouse, but never made it her permanent home because she and her family moved to Washington.
She stepped away from her Trump Organization job as her father’s 2017 inauguration neared, and she became an unpaid senior adviser. After the Trump administration ended, she and her family moved to Florida.
The non-jury trial will decide allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records — but Judge Arthur Engoron already has resolved the lawsuit’s top claim by ruling that Trump engaged in fraud. That decision came with provisions that could strip the ex-president of oversight of such marquee properties as Trump Tower, though an appeals court is allowing him continued control of his holdings for now.
James, a Democrat, is seeking over $300 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.
With the case now turning to the defense, the Trumps’ attorneys plan to argue Thursday that the judge should find in their favor immediately.
“The attorney general rested their case, and it is very clear that they have failed to prove the essential elements of the case,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said outside court.
Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who are still Trump Organization EVPs, also have professed minimal knowledge of their father’s annual financial statements. Donald Trump Jr. testified that he dealt with the documents only in passing; Eric Trump said he relied completely on accountants and lawyers to ensure the documents’ accuracy.