The New York Attorney General plans to have her lawyers grill former President Donald Trump, his oldest three children whom he made Trump Organization executives, and many of his most loyal bankers at his upcoming business fraud trial, according to a witness list obtained by The Daily Beast on Thursday.
The proposed 57-person list—buried in recent appellate court filings—shows the immense scope of the investigation that will be on display at the trial. New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office seeks to obliterate the real estate tycoon and former president’s corporate empire, squeezing it dry of profits gained over years of what she has described as a pattern of “persistent and repeated business fraud.”
If James succeeds, this will be the first time the former president is dragged onto the stand to testify under oath alongside his adult children, longtime business associates, and bankers who gladly extended him billions of dollars in credit in exchange for his farcical personal financial statements.
The American public will hear directly from Rosemary Vrablic, Trump’s guardian angel at Deutsche Bank who kept extending him a lifeline even when his businesses floundered—that is, until she eventually resigned in the days after Trump’s attempts to stage a presidential coup culminated in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The AG’s office plans to question five other current and former bankers there.
The list also includes Peter Welch, a former senior vice president at Capital One bank, and Jack Weisselberg, a director at Ladder Capital Finance who happens to be a son of the disgraced one-time Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg—who spent several months at Rikers Island jail for cheating on his taxes.
Investigators hope to squeeze out damning details from eight current and former employees at Cushman and Wakefield, which routinely helped Trump value properties in ways that allegedly benefited him handsomely by helping him secure otherwise unattainable bank loans and insurance policies. Justice Arthur F. Engoron briefly held the company in contempt last year when it refused to turn over documents.
The judge, who is running this as a bench trial and will alone decide its outcome, will also hear from current and former employees at insurance companies Tokio Marine and Zurich who appear to have been duped by Trump’s alleged inflation scheme.
Then there are the familiar faces. The AG’s office plans to call Trump’s former right-hand man, Michael Cohen, who was imprisoned and disbarred after taking the fall for his former boss and now rails against him in public. They also want to question Donald Bender, the longtime outside accountant at the firm MazarsUSA who, in a criminal trial against the company last year, acknowledged that he simply played along and didn’t question the finances of the very company he purported to examine.
But the former president will, of course, be the headliner—especially given that his appearance will disrupt his political campaign to snag the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump will finally be forced to testify about his stubborn tendency to lie about the value of his properties, from golf courses to commercial buildings. A highlight of his testimony is expected to be when he tries to justify the way he brazenly tripled the size of his ostentatious, gold-encrusted Manhattan penthouse—simply making up 20,000 square feet of space that simply doesn’t exist.
It would also force Trump to actually speak extensively in court under threat of perjury and supervised by an authoritative judge, a precarious proposition he has thus far avoided at other proceedings. When he was on trial earlier this year for sexually abusing the journalist E. Jean Carroll and defaming her by lying about it, he refused to show up—instead allowing a damning taped deposition to do the talking for him.
The sheer size of the list—which doesn’t even include the witnesses Trump’s lawyers plan to call—helps explain why the trial is scheduled to run for up to 56 days from early October until mid-December.
However, the start date of that trial is now in question.
On Thursday, lawyers for the Trumps made a longshot emergency request for an appellate judge to temporarily pause the trial—a last-minute gambit that actually worked. Both sides are now drafting legal arguments they’ll submit to a five-judge panel, which could make a definitive decision in the coming weeks.
Still, the trial is set to go forward on Oct. 2—or sometime thereafter. And it promises to be pure fireworks.
The AG’s investigators of course plan to question Trump, who inherited the Trump Organization from his real estate mogul father and has spent the past 50 years expanding its vast collection of enterprises—always striving to give it the allure of luxury by inflating its brand value. The recently released transcript of his deposition in April hints at what he could say on the stand—which is sure to include self-incriminating gaffes and ludicrous leaps of logic.
One prominent gem is sure to be his twisted rationalization for claiming that a property could be worth whatever he says it is: his distorted sense of the flow of time that ventures into a new branch of theoretical physics. By Trump’s logic, an eventual increase in value means that it was always worth that—or more.
“Regardless it turned out to be true,” he said then.
But state investigators also plan to question the family members he appointed as executives to oversee sections of his real estate empire, like daughter Ivanka Trump, who worked on the family company’s acquisition of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Washington, D.C.—converting it into a Trump-branded hotel that became an influence-peddling ethical disaster during Trump’s time in the White House just a few blocks away. She was initially a defendant in the lawsuit, but her decision to veer away from the family business and launch her own products insulated her and relegated her to a mere witness.
The AG’s attorneys also intend to grill his son, Eric Trump, who initially refused to answer any questions the first time he was deposed by them behind closed doors in 2020. According to the company, he oversees how the company acquires new properties, real estate development, and construction.
Also on the list is Donald Jr., who has spent much of his time trying to help his father’s 2024 presidential campaign but otherwise is credited with evaluating deals and branding.
The Daily Beast acquired the witness list because it was attached to an appellate court petition the Trumps filed on Thursday that was only available at the courthouse in Manhattan. Both sides have submitted witness lists to Justice Engoron in the run-up to trial, but the court has yet to post them publicly.