When Donald Trump’s charity was caught making an illegal political donation years ago, his longtime finance right-hand man Allen Weisselberg signed a letter to law enforcement that he called it a simple mistake. In fact, as The Daily Beast recently revealed, employees were well aware that the money was going to a politician in Florida.
When the Trump Foundation filed its annual tax returns with New York State which incorrectly listed this donation – giving the impression that it was going to a legitimate nonprofit – Weisselberg approved the document, a- he said, without actually examining it.
Scribbling his signature with a thin black pen, he claimed he had “reviewed this report” to ensure it was “true, correct and complete”. As Weisselberg would later say, the truth was he hadn’t even read it.
“Maybe I just went through it,” he told investigators in an oath interview in October 2017.
In fact, Weisselberg claimed he didn’t even realize he was one of only three board members of the multi-million dollar charity for 15 years.
“I’m not a director,” he swore. âI’m just a treasurer.
This is the standard operating procedure of the now indicted Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. While his current legal strategy in his tax evasion case has yet to be revealed – with his lawyers content to describe the prosecution as “flawed” – this past behavior shows that his main defense has been essentially gross negligence. A contempt for surveillance. Negligence. Incompetence.
The Daily Beast used a public documents request to acquire a full copy of a transcript of Weisselberg’s one-day interview with government attorneys from the New York attorney general’s office. Only excerpts from the interview were previously available in publicly accessible court files, but we requested the files directly from the GA office citing the state’s freedom of information law and obtained them. a week later.
The attorney general’s office is currently teaming up with the Manhattan district attorney to prosecute Weisselberg and the company for allegedly dodging taxes by giving employees costly perks off the books. But the interview The Daily Beast obtained through a request for public documents dates back to a previous investigation by the GA’s office, which resulted in the dissolution of the Trump Foundation for inappropriately mixing politics and charity funds. .
Weisselberg’s interaction offers a glimpse of what Trump’s executive might show in his scheduled criminal tax evasion trial – that is, if prosecutors fail to turn him against his boss.
The 227-page review further proves what multiple sources have been saying for months: Weisselberg is a staunchly loyal man to Trump who sits atop the company’s operations and exercises firm control. But when pressed for questionable behavior, Weisselberg repeatedly feigns ignorance, even incompetence.
However, those who know Weisselberg best, like his divorced daughter-in-law, say the real Weisselberg is a domineering figure who constantly thinks about setbacks and makes contingency plans, keeping an eye on every piece of the board.
Unlike Allen Weisselberg’s apparent defense, he’s not a clumsy accountant at all, said Jennifer Weisselberg, who was married to the CFO’s son for years.
“He’s a liar,” she told the Daily Beast. âAllen is in control. He needs to know where every dollar is going. He can’t stand not overseeing every dollar. And he won’t sign something unless he knows what he’s saying. He knows exactly what’s going on. He doesn’t want loose ends.
When meeting with investigators in 2017, however, Weisselberg described his role in the Trump world in the simplest terms.
âMy responsibilities are really carefully defined. So I did what I would normally do for any of our companies: keep the money relatively liquid in a safe place, âhe said.
As he detailed in this 2017 review, Weisselberg is charged with this responsibility due to his long experience with the Donald himself.
As he told investigators, Weisselberg made his debut with the Trump family just three years after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pace College (now officially recognized as a university). He briefly taught, worked at a small chartered accountancy firm, and did financial work at a stock brokerage firm before eventually landing in Fred Trump’s Brooklyn real estate business, Trump Management Inc., in 1973.
Weisselberg remained there for 13 years until the occasional work he did alongside the patriarch’s son permanently removed him from him.
As Weisselberg reminded investigators of Donald Trump: âHe repeatedly asked his father to bring me over to help him with my bookkeeping or whatever. And his dad kept saying, ‘Find your own guy, you don’t need him, leave him alone.’ It lasted a few years. “
When Weisselberg concluded that he “didn’t like the way things were going, the way the investments were being made” under the direction of the new controller at Fred Trump’s company in 1986, he stepped ship and left with Donald Trump instead.
“His whole life is Donald. He literally thinks the sun rises and sets with him. Allen was the guarantor who made sure the company and Donald were protected.“
– Jennifer weisselberg
“I wanted to make sure things were done right for the family,” Weisselberg reminded investigators, alluding to the unwavering dedication he has for the Trump clan.
Over the years, Trump elevated him from controller to chief financial officer, ultimately placing him as the director of several iterations of his company around the world. Weisselberg stayed on as Trump’s casinos and the first two marriages crumbled and burned, navigating bankruptcies and divorces. Two former associates say Weisselberg has become the one person Trump really trusted with his money.
This loyalty manifested itself in how Weisselberg would even stay near the Don on weekends – just in case it was needed – accompanying the weekend CEO’s plane trips to Mar-a-Lago.
Jennifer Weisselberg, who married Allen’s son Barry, recalled how the CFO walked nervously on Sunday mornings and insisted on boarding the plane before his boss to always be there and ready because he understood that his value lay in his unwavering presence on Trump’s side.
âHis whole life is Donald. He literally thinks the sun rises and sets with him. Allen was the guarantor who made sure the company and Donald were protected, âshe told the Daily Beast. “It was all his game. He would make deals with insurers to save a few dollars on each employee, then he would go to Donald and say, ‘I’m saving you money, I’m saving you, I’m saving you. Safe.”
At almost every step of the way, Weisselberg kept his own right-hand man, an accountant by the name of Jeffrey S. McConney, the comptroller of the Trump Organization who forged a reputation as a staunch foot soldier in the closely guarded family business and found now himself repeatedly presented before a Manhattan grand jury for the purpose of using him as a witness against the company and its executives.
Several close associates of the pair have spoken to the Daily Beast about the dynamics between them, with Trump making trade deals, Weisselberg lining up funding and McConney cutting the checks.
This relationship can be seen in accounts collected by lawyers for New York AG who separately interviewed Weisselberg and McConney.
Take the two main blunders that ultimately doomed the Trump Foundation by illegally mixing charity work with politics: one, the much-vaunted fundraiser for veterans that Trump did in Des Moines, Iowa, which used his charity to boost his political campaign a week before the 2016 Iowa Caucus. And second, the $ 25,000 check that Trump’s charity gave to support then-Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013, just as she faced the possibility. to investigate his scandal at Trump University.
As previously reported by The Daily Beast, McConney readily admitted to investigators that these things shouldn’t have been done, absorbing the blame for his department’s actions.
Meanwhile, Weisselberg has distanced himself from both episodes, posing as a mere signer with little knowledge of the machinations beneath him.
When asked to explain his role on the day Trump hosted his veterans fundraiser, when Weisselberg and McConney rushed to Iowa armed with a checkbook, Weisselberg widely dismissed the whole ordeal.
âWe were in the audience, if that counts as assistance. I don’t believe that’s the case, âWeisselberg told investigators.
Weisselberg squirmed during his examination when an investigator probed illegal political donation to support the Florida GA. Deputy Attorney General Steven Shiffman stepped up the pressure when he noted that Bondi’s team had in fact sent the Trump Foundation a tax form clearly stating that the money was intended for a political group.
“You know, the clerks who work in the department, I can’t tell you that they do things perfectly all the time, if they keep things, don’t keep things, know what’s important, what is not, “Weisselberg told investigators. âThey pay bills. So I don’t know what she determined. I had never seen this at the time. Whether she keeps it on file or not, I’ve never seen it.
Weisselberg, who currently faces tax evasion charges in the ongoing AG-DA joint investigation, is now forced to explain something he certainly should know more about: how he ended up with luxury apartments provided by the company, cars and tuition for grandchildren who never ended up in their taxes.
His legal defense team, which dodged the press at a recent hearing, issued statements noting its position that the indictment “is full of unsubstantiated and erroneous factual and legal claims.”