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Why are Donald Trump’s children in court for his fraud trial?

Donald Trump has maintained a wide lead in the 2024 Republic presidential nomination, but that has been marred by his mounting legal woes. The former president and his three children are set to appear at a New York court in the coming days to testify in a case of fraud against their family’s real estate business.

His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, became the first to take the stand on Wednesday in a case his father has called “a witch hunt”. He will likely appear again in court on Thursday.

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The former president will appear in court on Monday.

Here is what to know about the trial and what’s at stake for them.

What are Trump and his children accused of?

On September 26, a judge ruled that Trump had inflated his net worth and the value of assets belonging to the Trump Organization, which owns assets such as hotels, casino resorts, and restaurants.

His elder sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, are on trial for involvement in the fraudulent inflation. Ivanka Trump, by virtue of her former high-level positions at the company, is also being accused of financially benefitting from the family business and maintaining knowledge of its fraudulent activities.

While the ruling found Trump guilty of the primary claim brought forward by New York attorney general Letitia James, the ongoing civil trial will address six other fraud claims in the case and determine penalties. Judge Arthur Engoron will oversee and issue the verdict for this non-jury trial.

Who is testifying and when?

Trump Jr and Eric are co-defendants and central players in the case. The duo largely took over management of the Trump Organization from their father in 2017 as executive vice presidents. They have denied any wrongdoing.

This is not Trump Jr’s only legal trouble. He is currently facing four other criminal prosecutions for cases such as his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, according to Reuters.

Trump’s second eldest son, Eric, will appear on Thursday while Trump will testify on Monday.

His daughter Ivanka tried to fight a subpoena calling her to the trial but a judge ordered her to testify in the case. She is set to take the stand on November 8.

Ivanka is also a former executive vice president of the company. Although Judge James’s lawsuit initially listed her a co-defendant as well, an appeals court dismissed her from the case because claims against her were too old.

What are the highlights of Donald Trump’s Jr appearance?

Trump Jr’s 85 minutes on the witness stand on Wednesday were marked by jokes, smiles, and repeated deferrals to his accountant in answers.

“I should have worn makeup,” he remarked as news photographers took his photo before questioning, according to The AP.

He claimed he had not been involved in preparing the financial documents that form the centre of the trial. At least one of the annual financial statements, however, says the trustees “are responsible” for the document, The AP reported.

Trump Jr contested that he signed off on documents as a trustee but relied on the company’s accountants and finance chief for the information to be accurate.

“As a trustee, I have an obligation to listen those who are expert — who have an expertise of these things,” he said, according to The AP.

Before Trump Jr made his way to the court, his father, the former president, expressed his disapproval of involving his children in the trial.

“Leave my children alone, [Judge] Engoron,” Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social site on Wednesday.


What’s at stake?

If found guilty, Trump’s business empire may have to face heavy fines and restrictions on their operations in New York state.

Sons Trump Jr and Eric may be prohibited from running any New York-based company again.

Trump and his organisation may also face a five-year real estate ban and be liable to pay at least $250m in fines. Additionally an independent monitor will oversee all Trump Organization operations.

Judge Engoron has already ordered the dissolution of companies that control pillars of Trump’s real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower in Manhattan. However, Trump has appealed the ruling, putting it on hold.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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