Ivanka Trump takes the witness stand in NY fraud trial

By Jack Queen and Luc Cohen

(Reuters) -Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump took the witness stand in a Manhattan court on Wednesday to testify in a civil fraud trial that has exposed the inner workings of the former U.S. president’s business empire and threatens to strip him of prized New York properties.

Ivanka Trump’s appearance follows testimony by her two adult brothers and Trump, who leads the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination despite his maelstrom of legal troubles. Unlike her siblings and father, she is not a defendant in the case.

As questioning got underway, Ivanka said she focused on redeveloping the Doral golf course in Florida and the Old Post Office property in Washington when she served as a top executive at the company from 2011 to 2017. She said she was “generally familiar” with accounting practices but was not a specialist.

The lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, accuses Trump and his family businesses of manipulating real estate asset values to dupe lenders and insurers and embellish Trump’s reputation as a successful businessman.

Justice Arthur Engoron has already ruled that the conduct amounts to fraud and is now considering what penalties to impose.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused James and Engoron of political bias and “election interference.” He repeated those claims on social media late on Tuesday, saying it was “Sad!” that Ivanka was being forced to testify.

During defiant and rambling testimony on Monday, Trump acknowledged that valuations for his properties were not always accurate but said the errors were not relevant to the financial institutions that used them to price deals.

His sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump testified last week that the financial documents at the heart of the case were not their responsibility, though emails and other documents showed they may have been more involved than their testimony indicated.

A state appeals court removed Ivanka as a defendant in June, saying she was not involved in any conduct over which James could sue.

Unlike her brothers, she did not oversee the Trump Organization during their father’s 2017-2021 term in the White House.

James said Ivanka nevertheless was involved in manipulating property values.

“She will attempt today to distance herself from the company, but unfortunately the facts will reveal that in fact she was very much involved,” James said on the courthouse steps.

In a ruling that found Trump, his adult sons and 10 of his companies liable for fraud, Engoron described in scathing terms how the defendants made up valuations. His ruling could strip Trump’s control of some of his best known properties, though that order is on hold during appeal.

James is seeking $250 million in fines, as well as restrictions that would prevent Trump and his adult sons from doing business in New York.

In addition to this case, Trump is a defendant in four separate criminal cases, including two stemming from his attempts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory.

Nevertheless, opinion polls show he holds a commanding lead over Republican rivals to face Biden next year.

(Reporting by Jack Queen in New York; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)