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Ivanka Trump called to stand to testify in New York fraud trial

Ivanka Trump testifies in civil fraud trial
Ivanka Trump takes New York civil fraud stand after being dismissed as case defendant 04:07

Ivanka Trump testified in the ongoing civil fraud trial of her father and his business in New York on Wednesday, the fourth and final member of the Trump family to take the stand.

Former President Donald Trump's eldest daughter is not a defendant in her family's fraud trial. Evidence presented in court Wednesday indicated she was involved in at least one deal during her time at the Trump Organization that was facilitated by a document that inflated her father's net worth. Trump submitted the 2011 financial statement, which was meant to be a snapshot of his wealth at the time, to a bank executive and copied Ivanka Trump, who was negotiating a loan.

Ivanka Trump is appearing two days after her father testified for four tense hours, repeatedly lashing out at the judge overseeing the case and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Donald Trump and two of his sons are accused of a decade of fraud tied to false inflation of his net worth and the value of Trump Organization properties. Ivanka Trump was an executive at the Trump Organization until 2017, when she left to join her father in the White House. She was originally a defendant in the lawsuit, but a New York appellate court dismissed claims against her in June, ruling that they were barred by the state's statute of limitations.

Ivanka Trump's testimony

Ivanka Trump arrives at the courtroom during the civil fraud trial against former President Donald Trump at New York Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.
Ivanka Trump arrives at the courtroom during the civil fraud trial against former President Donald Trump at New York Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Yuki Iwamura / AP

Louis Solomon, a lawyer from the attorney general's office, opened the testimony by asking Ivanka Trump about her work history and involvement in a variety of business deals for the Trump Organization.

Solomon soon turned to a statement of financial condition from 2011 that described her father's assets. Trump enclosed the document in a letter to Deutsche Bank's then-CEO while Ivanka Trump was leading negotiations for a loan related to a Florida golf course. The judge has already found that the statement portrayed Trump's wealth as far higher than it actually was.

One month later, the bank offered a deal with significantly better loan rates than the Trump Organization had previously been offered.

"It doesn't get better than this," Ivanka Trump wrote in one email, forwarding the offer to other Trump Organization executives.

Earlier in the trial, a former Deutsche Bank executive who analyzed risk for loans to high-net-worth individuals testified that the bank relied on, at least in part, the statement of financial condition that year.

"I assumed that the representations of the value of the assets and liabilities were broadly accurate," said Nicholas Haigh, the executive.

Ivanka Trump said she didn't recall sending the email, or seeing the letter to the bank CEO. The deal involved a loan for the Trump National Doral golf course in Florida, one of her two biggest projects while working for her father's company.

She maintained more than a dozen times that she had forgotten many of the details from her negotiations related to loans that buttressed her father's effort to buy the course. Her recollection of many interactions and meetings, she said, extended only to what she had been shown by James' office during an August 2022 deposition.

Asked about discussions with her father related to the deal, she said she remembered them only because of the deposition.

"I recall you showed me, I think, a letter from my father," Ivanka Trump said.

And asked about negotiations related to key loan terms, her memory faltered.

"I think it would be hard for me to answer that question sitting here today, all of these years removed," Ivanka Trump said.

One of those instances involved an unsuccessful effort in February 2016, while Donald Trump was vying for the Republican presidential nomination, to increase a credit line she previously negotiated for him. The bank declined, citing his candidacy.

"At the end, it came down to a global corporate decision to maintain neutrality to any political situation and not lend money to a highly politically exposed person," a bank executive wrote in an email to Ivanka Trump.

That exhibit and others presented Wednesday were challenged by lawyers for the defendants, who argued it was unclear why Ivanka Trump was on the stand discussing the loan, since she is not also a defendant.

Solomon, the lawyer for James' office, said the state had already shown she was crucial to a banking relationship at the center of the state's case against her family.

"She's negotiating the deal from top to bottom," Solomon said.

Asked if her father discussed his financial statements during a meeting with government officials before the Trumps took over the Old Post Office property in Washington, D.C., Ivanka said she could not remember. She then described several other details about the meeting, and what she said Donald Trump spoke about. 

The response raised Solomon's ire, and he asked the judge to strike most of what she said.

"She just spent three minutes describing the Plaza Hotel — how it's similar to this, how her father spoke about this, how people speak about that — but she has no recollection when I ask her a question," Solomon said.

Ivanka Trump was the only one of the four Trumps who testified who was also cross-examined by lawyers for the defense. They showed exhibits that appeared to indicate Deutsche Bank was as interested in cultivating a relationship with the Trumps and Ivanka as the family was with the bank.

Ivanka Trump described a banker who oversaw the bank's relationship with her family, Rosemary Vrablic, as someone she aspired to work with.

"She had an incredible reputation after a long career in the banking industry and was considered a very reputable, solid lender," Ivanka Trump said.

Tensions boiled over in the afternoon, after the defense and state argued over the admissibility of defense exhibits. Trump attorney Jesus Suarez interrupted Ivanka Trump just after asking about a time when two Democratic congressmen invited her to speak at an event about her positive experience dealing with the government.

"You know, I'm glad that the government thinks it's funny for us to try to put on our case," Suarez yelled, pointing at attorneys for the state, accusing them of laughing at his questions.

"I want the record to reflect that the government is sitting here laughing at their attempts to destroy this company."

The Trump fraud case

Her two older brothers, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, both sought to blame accountants working for the Trump Organization for inaccuracies in the statements of financial condition, which were central to the alleged scheme to overstate their father's wealth by billions in order to receive favorable rates on loans and insurance.

Trump himself gave different reasons for the inaccuracies while on the stand on Monday. He argued a disclaimer on the statements absolved himself and the company of responsibility for its accuracy. Trump claimed the statements actually under-valued his properties, an assertion that runs counter to a pretrial ruling by the judge, who said the statements over-valued Trump's assets and found the defendants liable for fraud.

James' office says the Trumps profited by at least $250 million through the fraud, and are asking the judge to award the state an equivalent amount. The judge will also rule on other allegations related to falsification of business records, conspiracy and insurance fraud. The defendants have denied all wrongdoing.

The state is expected to rest its case after Ivanka Trump concludes her testimony on Thursday. 

Lawyers for the Trumps will begin calling their own witnesses on Nov. 13. They expect to conclude their case by Dec. 15, they said in court on Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the letter sent to a bank executive. It was sent by Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump.

Katrina Kaufman contributed reporting.

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