When Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg in July of 2021, Trump’s personal attorney Ronald Fischetti scoffed to Politico that “This is so small that I can’t believe I’m going to have to try a case like this.”
In fact, it was not “small”, as shown by the 15-count indictment which meticulously detailed a years-long conspiracy to stiff federal, state, and municipal tax authorities out of more than a million dollars by shifting compensation into untaxed perks and side agreements. The only limit was the conspirators’ imagination — they were certainly not bothered by state or federal law.
The company paid for Weisselberg’s rent and cars with pre-tax dollars. It paid his grandchildren’s private school tuition. It even shifted part of his compensation to other Trump-owned entities, such as the Wollman Rink and Mar-a-Lago, which paid him as a contractor so that he could set up Keogh plan once he’d maxed out his 401k and Social Security contributions. Always be hustling!
Naturally the company kept a second set of books documenting the declining balance as Weisselberg’s $940,000 annual compensation was whittled down to a more reasonable figure to report to Uncle Sam.
Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney returned to the stand to testify about these machinations today. McConney had already testified multiple times to the grand jury, and reportedly sought to cast this arrangement as an innocent mistake.
“I didn’t think or know they had to be reported,” he told grand jurors, according the Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery, who has been covering the trial. “Until recently, I never thought [the apartment and tuition] had to be income—included as income.”
Asst District Atty Joshua Steinglass: “Mr. McConney, did you intentionally help people try to evade their income taxes?”
McConney: “I tried to help them in any way I could…”
There’s a smirk under his white mustache.
“…with some suggestions.”
He sighs. No further questions
— Jose Pagliery (@Jose_Pagliery) November 10, 2022
This week, McConney continued to deflect blame from the company, but now he seeks to direct it toward Weisselberg, who has pled guilty and agreed to spend five months in jail. Apparently, he and he alone was responsible for all this crazy frauding that was going on under right under everyone’s nose!
CBS reports that McConney admitted on the stand that the company engaged in a 2017 internal review by attorney Sherri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, after which it decided “to do things differently,” particularly as to the way it compensated senior executives. But, he insisted, this had nothing to do with Trump’s elevation to the Oval Office and the concomitant spotlight it would put on the company’s books.
“Nobody told me specifically that this change was because Mr. Trump became President Trump,” he said, presumably with a straight face.
CBS also reports this hilarious exchange between McConney and prosecutor Joshua Steinglass:
McConney said Thursday that a Mazars accountant at one point told him not to pay a Trump Organization attorney that way, because “there was concern that he could lose his legal license.”
“Did [the accountant] tell you that he wasn’t ‘a fan’ of this practice for any employee?” Steinglass asked.
“I believe he did use that word, yes,” McConney replied.
McConney further testified that someone had manually deleted a notation reading “per Allen Weisselberg” from a 2012 ledger handed over to the grand jury describing a tuition payment for one of the Weisselberg grandchildren. The original ledger had been turned over to the accounting firm Mazars, which gave it to prosecutors, who later discovered the discrepancy.
So, to summarize: No one at the Trump Organization appreciated that their scheme to pay executives with untaxed earnings was illegal. In fact, they were so hyperaware of its legality that they kept a secret internal set of books to document it. Or, if anyone at the company knew there was something hinky about the arrangements, it was just Allen Weisselberg, who is bad and evil and worked next to Jeff McConney since 1987 but never told him why there had to be two sets of books. And, no, Jeff has no idea who might have deleted that ledger entry before handing the ledger off to the grand jury in 2021.
So, we’re cool, right?