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Ivanka Trump testifies about Trump Organization fraud

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

New York has rested its $250 million civil fraud case against Donald Trump. Over six weeks of testimony, the state attorney general's office has presented evidence of a conspiracy by the former president and his company to lie about the value of their assets. The state's final witness was a key person in Trump's business and political orbit, his daughter Ivanka. NPR's Andrea Bernstein has been in the courtroom following it all and joins us now. Hey, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: So the AG's finished with its main case. What's the general outline of their evidence?

BERNSTEIN: So the case, as we all know, ended with the well-observed testimony of Donald Trump and his three older children. But mostly, we've heard from Trump employees, appraisers, accountants and bankers. And bit by bit, the evidence has accrued. Donald Trump cared deeply about his statements of net worth, and his employees undertook to massage the numbers so they turned out the way he wanted.

DETROW: So let's talk about Ivanka Trump. She is not a defendant, so today she testified as a witness. How would you describe her testimony?

BERNSTEIN: So unlike her father, Ivanka Trump is disciplined. She didn't go off on political diatribes and was careful to say she always tried to be accurate. Unlike her brothers, she seemed on top of the deals she was involved in, that is until she went to the White House in 2017. But like her brothers and her father, when presented with emails and documents with her name on them, her most repeated refrain was I don't recall or I don't specifically remember.

DETROW: What do we know about what was in those key emails and documents?

BERNSTEIN: So this is where things got interesting. The AG showed emails from Ivanka Trump to various bankers, trying to get loans for projects in Chicago, Florida and Washington, D.C. And when she went to the regular commercial real estate divisions of banks, she was told the banks didn't really want to lend for resorts and hotels in the wake of the financial crisis. That translated to high interest rates, like 9%. So Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner, she testified, introduced her to the private wealth division of Deutsche Bank, and she was able to get rates way lower, in the 2% range. But there was a catch. Donald Trump had to guarantee the loans and certify them year over year with his statements of financial condition.

DETROW: And this is a key clarification here in this case - these are the statements that the judge has already found to be false?

BERNSTEIN: Correct. And what's important is that if the AG shows what the Trumps saved by basing their loans on false statements, the judge can order Donald Trump to pay it all back to the state - potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. One interesting side note that came out today - Ivanka Trump was still trying to get a very favorable loan for $50 million in 2016, when her father was running for president. The amount she sought was very close to the amount of money Donald Trump was putting into his campaign.

DETROW: So Trump's lawyers cross-examined Ivanka Trump. What did she say during their questioning?

BERNSTEIN: They asked her about her work on Doral and the Old Post Office, and Ivanka was able to slip in at least twice that the Doral deal was offered to her as she was giving birth to her oldest child, Arabella, and that the property had sentimental affection for her father. She said he had gone there with his father, Fred Trump, and later with her mother, Ivana Trump. Ivanka Trump said the Deutsche bankers were very happy with their loan on Doral and that the Old Post Office - they thought the Old Post Office was the crown jewel of their investment portfolio. Even though under New York law you're not allowed to lie as part of your business model even if no one was harmed, this is exactly what we expect to hear more of from the defense case, which starts Monday and will go into mid-December.

DETROW: That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein joining us from the streets of New York City. Thank you so much, Andrea.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Andrea Bernstein