Ivanka Trump to testify in civil fraud trial in New York
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Ivanka Trump is set to testify today in her father's civil fraud trial in New York. Former President Donald Trump and others, including Ivanka's brothers Eric and Donald Jr., are accused of taking part in a wide-ranging conspiracy to commit business fraud. The stakes are high. The state's attorney general wants them banned from doing business in New York, along with a $250 million in penalties. Ivanka Trump's testimony could be key.
NPR's Andrea Bernstein has been following the trial throughout, and she's with us once again for a preview. Good morning.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: OK, so help us understand - Ivanka Trump is not a defendant. So why is she testifying?
BERNSTEIN: She was a defendant, but her lawyer has successfully argued that because she left the family business for the White House, any alleged actions she was a part of are too old to be a part of a case against her. But her father and brothers continued on with the business. And the way New York law works, their actions, even if old, can be used to establish a continuing conspiracy. To the extent - so to the extent that she was involved with and witnessed those previous actions, her testimony can shed light on the entire scheme.
MARTIN: What was her role?
BERNSTEIN: Ivanka Trump was involved in the valuations and loans for a couple of key properties. The first was the Doral golf course in Florida near Miami. She oversaw the purchasing of that property, for which the Trumps sought financing from Deutsche Bank. Now, by that time, the Trumps had already had a checkered history with the bank's commercial real estate division. So the Trumps went another route. With her husband, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump brought in a different division of Deutsche Bank - the private wealth division - and they were willing to loan the Trumps money at a rate so low even Ivanka was astonished. An email was introduced earlier in the trial saying she was inclined not to negotiate because it was such a good rate.
But the rate was based on an inflated statement of value, and that's what - at issue in the trial. Did the Trumps get unfairly low rates because they lied? There was testimony from an expert witness that the Trumps saved nearly $170 million in interest from four Deutsche Bank loans by lying on its statements. The Trump defendants could have to pay all that money back to New York state. What exactly Ivanka Trump knew will be key.
MARTIN: Wasn't she involved with another property as well?
BERNSTEIN: Yes, the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., which became the Trump International Hotel, perhaps most known as the place where foreign dignitaries and others seeking to impress Donald Trump when he was president would stay. But before that, Ivanka Trump negotiated the lease and yet another bank - Deutsche Bank loan, also at an exceedingly favorable rate. The Trumps were able to sell that property and pay back the loan in full, but that doesn't absolve them under New York business law, which says you're not allowed to run a company based on lies.
MARTIN: Is it possible that Ivanka Trump will contradict her father and brothers?
BERNSTEIN: So she has in the past. She testified before the House select committee investigating January 6 that she accepted former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr's conclusion the 2020 election was not stolen. This was a big break from her dad, who continues to falsely insist he won the election. She's not so far been involved in the campaign, while on the last two she was a key surrogate. But she's a twist here. There's a twist here. She was involved in these business activities. Even if she can't be charged, her role may not look so great. She tried awfully hard to get excused from testifying, claiming she's no longer a New York resident and didn't want to leave her family in Florida during the school week, but the New York courts wouldn't have it.
MARTIN: And how much longer are we going to see this trial?
BERNSTEIN: She's the last witness for the attorney general's case in chief.
BERNSTEIN: Then it's the defense case. That'll last until December 15.
MARTIN: That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Andrea, thank you.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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