ne of the key figures in prosecutors’ quest to actually put Donald Trump behind bars is Allen Weisselberg, the longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer. With the company for decades, Weisselberg has described himself as Trump’s “eyes and ears” at the firm and presumably, in the event that any laws had ever been broken, would know about them. In fact, as his ex-daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, put it to Air Mail earlier this year, “Allen knows every bad thing [Trump] ever did.” That kind of witness would obviously prove invaluable to the government officials trying to make their case, which is why, unsurprisingly, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has been working for months to “flip” Weisselberg and get him to cooperate against the ex-president. And while it’s not clear where Vance’s office is in its efforts, it appears the Trump Organization CFO may soon be under intense pressure to cooperate with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which just happens to be collaborating with the D.A.
The New York Times reports that Weisselberg is officially under criminal investigation by James’s office, which is examining if taxes were paid on “fringe benefits” Trump gave him, including cars and thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Weisselberg’s grandchilden.
Per the Times:
The focus on perks and Mr. Weisselberg overlaps with the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running criminal fraud investigation of Mr. Trump and his family business. The district attorney’s office has been investigating the extent to which Mr. Trump handed out fringe benefits to some of his executives, including Mr. Weisselberg, and whether taxes were paid on those perks…In general, fringe benefits—which can include cars, flights, and club memberships—are taxable, though there are some exceptions. Companies are typically responsible for withholding such taxes from an employee’s paycheck.
Rather than risk bumping into each other, the two investigative offices recently began collaborating, another person with knowledge of the matter said. Two assistant attorneys general from Ms. James’s office have joined the district attorney’s team, which has been seeking to turn Mr. Weisselberg into a cooperating witness against Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization, people with knowledge of that effort said…. In addition to the fringe benefits, Ms. James and the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have examined whether Mr. Trump’s company inflated the value of his properties to obtain favorable loans and lowered the values to reduce taxes.
For months, Mr. Vance’s office has pursued Mr. Weisselberg as a potential cooperating witness, people with knowledge of that effort have said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors, who have paid particular attention to Mr. Weisselberg’s fringe benefits, subpoenaed records from Mr. Weisselberg’s bank and the private school in Manhattan that his grandchildren have attended, The Times has reported. Mr. Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, has said that prosecutors had asked her about the tuition payments as well as gifts her ex-husband, Barry Weisselberg, received from Mr. Trump, including an apartment on Central Park South and several leased cars.
As The Washington Post reported in March, Vance’s office—and now, seemingly James’s—has been “delving deeply into the personal and financial affairs” of the senior Weisselberg, with the goal of getting him to flip and become a witness against Trump. The D.A. is said to additionally be focused on both Barry Weisselberg and the other son of the CFO, Jack Weisselberg, “a tactic that could be an effort to increase pressure on the elder Weisselberg.” Jack works at Ladder Capital Finance, which, according to the Post, happened to loan the Trump Organization more than $270 million. Barry—the ex-husband of Jennifer—is a Trump Organization employee who managed the Wollman ice rink for the company before the city ended its contract. Last month, Jennifer turned over a trove of financial documents to Vance’s office, which contain information for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards, as well as his statements of net worth and tax filings. “My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said. And according the Post, those documents contain some extremely interesting information regarding laws that may have been broken:
The documents show an array of payments and perks that Barry Weisselberg and his family received as a result of his employment for Trump’s company over 18 years, likely raising key questions for investigators analyzing the finances of the cash-only skating rink and working to ascertain whether the proper taxes were paid…. In [his divorce] deposition, Weisselberg acknowledged making errors in explaining information about his finances. He said, for instance, that he had forgotten that he shared an investment account with his father and he misstated his salary, prompting interjections from his attorneys when repeatedly confronted with contradictory information, the transcript shows.
He could not answer some questions about his taxes, the transcript shows. When asked whether taxes had been paid on the corporate apartment where his family previously lived, he said he wasn’t sure. Asked how the company determined the size of his bonuses, which tallied about $40,000 annually from 2015 to 2017, he said he had “no idea.” When pressed in the deposition to explain discrepancies between what he said he earned and what he reported on tax forms for the Internal Revenue Service, he said: “I’m not an accountant. I know what I make. I’m not too sure of certain things.”
Despite earning $200,000 a year for “as long as he could remember,” Barry said in the deposition that he and Jennifer lived for free in Trump-owned apartments while they were married, adding that he had no idea how taxes on the property were handled. (Additionally, his father, Allen, paid some of his living expenses, including $7,900 in monthly rent for a non-Trump-owned apartment where the couple later lived, $49,000 a year for each of his kids to attend private school, $25,000 each for overnight camp, $2,200 for his daughter’s Hebrew school, and $546 a month for a leased Range Rover.)