Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, has long been the white whale of Trump watchers. The 73-year-old accountant began writing the books for the former president’s father, Fred Trump, in the 1970s. He has been with the company ever since, running the day-to-day business of Don Jr. and Eric when their father went to the White House in 2017. And now, according to the New York Times, attorneys for the Manhattan Attorney’s Office have focused on him in their investigation into Donald Trump’s finances.
As New Yorker Adam Davidson wrote in a 2018 article on Weisselberg, he’s the one who knows where they’re buried when there are bodies in Trumpland. For example, Weisselberg’s 2018 limited immunity agreement to testify to the New York South District about the circumstances of Stormy Daniels’ hush money disbursement sparked a storm of speculation that Trump was really in trouble this time, which … well, clearly not.
But Weisselberg’s testimony to former New York attorney general Barbara Underwood about proprietary trading at the Trump charity dissolved the family foundation while Trump and his children had to raise $ 2 million and go to curative education to learn to differentiate between legitimate philanthropists striving and uses charitable funds to buy a Trump painting to hang in their private club.
Weisselberg is currently doing the same dance with Underwood’s successor Letitia James, who is investigating a slew of allegations about Trump’s finances. We don’t get much insight into this ongoing investigation, but this passage from an August 2020 motion to enforce a subpoena shows that Weisselberg is in a bind. NYAG wants to know if the Trump organization received $ 100 million in lending as income in 2012, and the company wants Weisselberg to swear to Pinky they did it instead of filing a tax return to prove it .
As part of its investigation, the OAG was merely trying to confirm that the amounts Fortress awarded were ultimately recorded as income (or an explanation as to why the Trump Organization was not required to do so). First aff. ¶ 84. The OAG raised this issue with the Trump Organization on or about April 7, 2020, and, following discussions, the Trump Organization believed that its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, would testify on the matter. I would. 85-86. However, Mr. Weisselberg had no personal knowledge and the Trump Organization subsequently refused to produce any documents to confirm these basic facts. I would. 87-93.
Obviously there are limits to what Weisselberg wants to do for his boss. According to the Times, Vance has asked questions about the sons of accountant Barry Weisselberg, who manages the Wolman ice rink for the Trump Organization, and Jack Weisselberg, who works for Ladder Capital, one of Donald Trump’s key lenders. As reported by Bloomberg, Barry Weisselberg, courtesy of the Trump family, enjoyed several expensive perks, including free rent, which could well have income tax ramifications if incorrectly explained. Obviously, Vance has potential leverage over Weisselberg should he choose to exercise it.
According to the Times, the Manhattan Attorney’s Office is focused on some of the same real estate deals that NYAG is investigating, particularly whether the Trump organization falsified loan applications with inflated appraisals and whether the company properly booked the hush payment to Stormy Daniels.
Recall that Trump’s own attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was already on TV saying that the company reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $ 130,000 he paid for the payout by “putting him in charge,” one Practice that he called the standard practice for lawyers.
“When I heard that Cohen’s $ 35,000 was withheld when he wasn’t doing any job for the president, I said he was paying it back that way,” Giuliani told Sean Hannity. “With a little profit and a small margin for paying taxes.”
Rudy Giuliani just came … out and … said it.
Hannity’s reaction is bloody gold.
I really love this season of Stupid Watergate.
– Holly Figueroa O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) May 3, 2018
This was about ten minutes before Greenberg sadly asked Giuliani to clean up his office. Probably a coincidence! (Also memories of a bygone era when the only thing that came out on Rudy’s head was his mouth.)
So will Cyrus Vance get Weisselberg to abandon the goods? Who knows! But maybe he’s lucky and Rudy will testify Laura Ingraham and tell us everything that happened.
Prosecutors investigating Trump focus on his chief financial officer [NYT]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore, where she writes on law and politics.