NEW YORK — Ivanka Trump on Wednesday became the latest member of her family to testify in a state civil trial accusing their business of fraud, and the latest to deny any connection to the financial documents at the heart of the case.
Testifying two days after her father, former president Donald Trump, her time on the witness stand served as a marked contrast to his. While he was animated and agitated, assailing the judge and the case itself throughout his testimony Monday, she remained calm and polite throughout hers.
She echoed what her two adult brothers had said in their testimonies last week by drawing a sharp line between herself and the central claims in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s lawsuit. James, a Democrat, last year sued Trump, his adult sons, and their namesake business, alleging a years-long fraud that involved inflating the values of assets to get better terms from insurers and lenders.
Ivanka Trump has already been removed from the case as a defendant but was still called as a witness by state officials — and is expected to be the final person summoned before James’s side rests and the Trump team presents its own case.
During her testimony, Ivanka Trump was asked 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 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 to during her father’s term in office.
She also testified that she was aware that her father had financial statements prepared but could not speak to how they were compiled.
Her testimony covered the key role she played in major Trump Organization transactions, including the acquisition of the landmark Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C.
The Trumps leased it from the General Services Administration (GSA), and they operated a hotel there that served as a major hub for events as well as people orbiting the family.
In court Wednesday, a 2011 letter from the GSA was presented as evidence, highlighting the agency’s concerns with a Trump financial statement that had been 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 testified about recalling one “in person meeting” with the GSA, which 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.
The courtroom atmosphere as her testimony got underway was much less charged than it was two days earlier, when the senior Trump clashed with the judge while testifying. The trial paused Tuesday for Election Day, so Ivanka Trump was the first witness called after her father.
Donald Trump was not in court Wednesday. Before testifying, he had made several other appearances throughout the proceedings, often delivering remarks criticizing the case on his way in and out of court.
When he testified Monday, Trump at times interrupted his testimony with tangents about what he perceives as unfair targeting by Democratic law enforcement officials, including James. Trump is seeking another term in office, and he has said this lawsuit and the four criminal cases against him are all politically motivated.
“This is not a political rally,” New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said Monday in an effort to control the proceeding. “This is a courtroom.”
Trump said 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 Trump’s statements that invited them to conduct their own financial analyses of the company.
James’s office built a civil case on the premise that Trump and other executives at the company purposely inflated his annual statements of net worth to deceive banks and insurance companies. In doing so, Trump allegedly obtained more favorable interest rates and insurance premiums on a false basis.
Engoron ruled before the trial that the defendants were liable for an overall civil fraud. The trial is now focused on whether specific illegal acts were committed in the process.
Because it is a civil case, not a criminal one, none of the defendants face potential prison time. James is seeking the recovery of at least $250 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains and has asked Engoron, who is deciding the matter instead of a jury, to impose severe restrictions on how the Trump Organization can operate in New York.
Berman reported from Washington.