November 8, 2023 - 7:34 am
Updated November 8, 2023 - 9:16 pm
NEW YORK — Ivanka Trump says she remembers a number of things about a 2011 meeting to pitch her family company’s plan to redevelop a historic post office into a Washington, D.C., hotel. She recalls discussion of the overall vision and the company’s experience, her father talking up his renovation of New York’s famous Plaza Hotel.
But, she told a court Wednesday, she doesn’t remember any mention of his annual financial statements — the documents central to the civil fraud trial that could reshape former President Donald Trump’s family business.
“I don’t recall, with specificity, any discussion over financial statements,” testified his elder daughter, who has been in his inner circle in both business and politics.
When pressed on how she could remember talk of the Plaza but not of the financial documents — despite documents showing they’d spurred questions before the meeting from officials overseeing the post office bidding — she explained that “the intention of the meeting was to talk about our vision for the project, so that’s what I recall.”
With even-tempered testimony that provided a counterpoint to her father’s caustic turn on the stand days earlier, Ivanka Trump rounded out a major stretch in the trial that could reshape the family business. Her brothers Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. testified last week, her father on Monday.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump’s asset values were fraudulently pumped up for years on annual “statements of financial condition” that helped him get loans and insurance.
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.
The ex-president and Republican 2024 front-runner denies any wrongdoing, as do the other defendants. 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 and that “this case is a disgrace.”
No longer a defendant
Unlike him and his adult sons, Ivanka Trump is no longer a defendant, and her lawyers had tried to prevent her from having to testify. Ordered to do so, she answered politely — periodically flashing broad smiles and at one point thanking a lawyer in James’ office for bringing up the Old Post Office proposal because it “brought back a lot of memories” — while saying she largely didn’t recall the documents and details that he asked her about.
James’ legal team and defense lawyers repeatedly tangled Wednesday over the scope of the questioning, including whether Ivanka Trump could be asked about 2013 emails that included her husband, Jared Kushner, in discussions about potential Trump company loans.
While Kushner didn’t work for the Trump Organization, he also had introduced his wife years earlier to a Deutsche Bank banker as the Trumps were seeking financing to buy and overhaul the Doral golf resort near Miami, Ivanka Trump testified. Because he also worked in real estate, they would sometimes exchange ideas and advice, she said.
Point person with Deutsche Bank
Ivanka Trump became the point person in establishing a lending relationship with Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management arm. It eventually extended the company hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, with terms that required Donald Trump to submit his financial statements each year.
Ivanka Trump, who was an executive vice president at the family company, said she didn’t recall ever having provided asset valuation information for the statements or having reviewed them before they were finalized. She recalled being shown “a few documents and correspondence that referenced financial statements, but that was not something I was involved in.”
“Those were not things that I was privy to,” she testified while being asked about the statements’ references to some apartments that she had options to buy in a Trump-owned building on New York’s Park Avenue.
State lawyers contend that Donald Trump was giving his daughter a steep discount on the apartments while claiming on his financial statements that they were worth far more.
Her brothers, 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. The other Trumps weren’t in court for Ivanka Trump’s testimony. Donald Trump scheduled a rally Wednesday night in Florida near the televised debate he’s skipping with Republican rivals.
While a Trump Organization executive, Ivanka Trump dealt with securing a loan and a lease for the Washington hotel and financing for Doral in Florida and a hotel and condo skyscraper in Chicago, according to court filings.
Left organization in 2017
As her father’s inauguration neared, she announced in January 2017 that she was stepping away from her Trump Organization job. She became an unpaid senior adviser. After her time in the administration, she moved to Florida.
An appeals court dismissed her as a defendant in the lawsuit in June, saying the claims against her were too old.
Her attorneys contended that she shouldn’t have to testify. They said the state was just trying to harass the family by dragging her into court.
The state attorney general’s office argued that her testimony would be relevant, saying she was involved in some events discussed in the case and remains financially and professionally entwined with the Trump Organization and its leaders.
“Ms. Trump will do all that she can to try to separate herself from this corporation,” James predicted on the way into court. “But she’s inextricably tied to the Trump Organization and to these properties that she helped secure financing for.”
Engoron and, later, an appeals court ruled that she had to testify.