Last month Donald Trump got several pieces of bad news re: avoiding prosecution for his cornucopia of alleged crimes. First, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office hired Mark Pomerantz, the guy who successfully put away John Gotti and others involved in organized crime. Worse, his tax returns were finally handed over to the D.A.’s office after the Supreme Court rejected his bid to keep them under lock and key, a development he reacted to with the tone of a guy who’s committed all manner of fraud and is terrified to get caught. Now the team working around the clock to put him away has apparently zeroed in on the Trump Organization employee who knows where all of his financial bodies are buried, and the possibility of his talking is presumably keeping Trump awake at night.
The Washington Post reports that Cyrus Vance’s office is “delving deeply into the personal and financial affairs” of Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. The questioning is being led by Pomerantz, with the goal of flipping Weisselberg and convincing him to become a witness against Trump. (During his years as a mob prosecutor, Pomerantz undoubtedly got who knows how many people to “snitch.”) Per the Post:
Vance’s focus on Weisselberg has included questions related to two of his adult children, a tactic that could be an effort to increase pressure on the elder Weisselberg. One of Weisselberg’s sons also works for the Trump Organization, where he manages the company’s Central Park ice rinks. Another Weisselberg son works for a company that has extended loans to the Trump Organization…. Typically, efforts to flip witnesses have two parts: First, prosecutors work to build evidence that a witness may have their own legal liabilities. They then try to convince the witness to save themselves by turning on a higher-up. The person with knowledge of the case said investigators were trying to “cast a wide net…looking to shake the tree a little bit.”
In this case prosecutors have scrutinized Weisselberg’s work in helping to assess the value of Trump buildings as the company sought to obtain loans or property tax reductions, people familiar with the investigation said. They have also asked about a Trump-owned luxury apartment where Weisselberg’s son Barry lived for several years. The exact nature of Vance’s interest in the apartment is not known, but if Barry Weisselberg, who manages Trump’s ice skating rinks, got the apartment rent-free, that might be considered a fringe benefit of his job and subject to income tax. Two people with knowledge of the district attorney’s probe said the team has also been analyzing the finances of the cash-only skating rink where Barry Weisselberg works. At the same time investigators have asked detailed questions about Allen Weisselberg’s financial history and his feelings about Trump, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The D.A.’s criminal investigation, which began in 2018, initially focused on the hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 election, but has since expanded to include possible crimes like insurance and tax fraud. Weisselberg has kept Trump’s books since the ’80s and became CFO of the family business in 2000, once describing himself in a deposition as Trump’s “eyes and ears…from an economic standpoint.” Or as a former Trump employee put it to the Post, “Allen is in charge of everything.”
In addition to asking questions about Weisselberg’s financial history, lifestyle, and relationship with Trump, investigators have reportedly been focusing on the Trump Parc East building where Weisselberg’s son Barry lived for several years; last year his ex-wife told Bloomberg that they lived there for free, believing at the time that it was a wedding present from Donald and Melania Trump. (IRS rules state that an apartment provided for free by an employer typically is subject to income tax, and a person familiar with the matter told the Post that prosecutors have been analyzing Barry Weisselberg’s tax returns.) Additionally, attorneys from Vance’s office have asked witnesses about more than $270 million in loans made to the Trump Organization by Ladder Capital, which employs Weisselberg’s other son, Jack Weisselberg. It’s not clear at this time what testimony, if any, Allen Weisselberg has provided to the D.A.’s office, although the bad news for Trump is that he does not appear opposed to talking: