Manhattan prosecutors rest their Trump Organization case without calling last witness
Manhattan prosecutors rested their case against the Trump Organization on Monday without calling their last witness — renewing questions about whether the district attorney still has his sights set on Donald Trump. Much of the DA’s case against the former president’s family real estate high business, eight days spread out over three weeks, focused on two of its senior executives. They were company Controller Jeff McConney and his convicted ex-boss, Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg. Weisselberg, 75 — the company’s veteran financial guilme gatekeeper who pleaded the heart of the case in August — told jurors that he’d worked with McConney to dodge taxes on lavish perks that Trump put in Weisselberg’s pocket over 15 years. The $1.7 million in so-called fringe benefits included rent on an Upper West Side apartment with Hudson River views, his son Barry Weisselberg’s rent, over $100,000 in parking garage fees, fancy furniture and other pricey expenses unrelated to his job as CFO. Weisselberg said Trump personally paid for his grandkids’ tuition at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, too. For the companies to be held criminally responsible, prosecutors must prove Weisselberg committed the tax fraud in his official capacity and benefited from it. Weisselberg acknowledged both were true last week. Trump Org lawyers have argued that the CFO was a bad apple who carried out the crimes in secret. The holding company and its subsidiary Trump Payroll Corporation have pleaded not guilty of a host tax fraud charges. The trusted company man who Trump and his late father, Fred, placed in charge of their finances for five decades didn’t accuse anyone in the family of criminal wrongdoing. Weisselberg tested for the prosecution in exchange for a reduced prison sentence and is expected to be sentenced soon to five months jail time, under the plea deal’s terms. Weisselberg, whose lawyers are paid by the Trump Org, was demoted tosenior advisor after his arrest. His hefty salary and bonus were not changed. Story continues McConney admitted to helping Weisselberg and the company’s chief operating officer, Matthew Calamari, Sr., cheat on their taxes for years while working down the hallis T tower on Fifth Ave. The controller received immunity for testifying before the grand jury. Among the witnesses, prosecutors also called an accounts payable supervisor who cut checks at Trump Tower, a forensic accountant from the DA’s office, and a state tax auditor. They declined to call Donald Bender from the Trump Organization’s former accounting firm, Mazars, whom Trump has sought to blame for the fraud. The defense called Bender as a witness. He briefly tested about preparing the Trump Organization’s tax returns for more than 35 years and was expected to continue on the stand Tuesday. The case stems from the DA’s three-year Trump probe. The investigators who were initially steering it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, abruptly resigned after DA Alvin Bragg took over the case from his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, Jr. Pomerantz’s resignation letter, shared with the New York Times, described Bragg’s “misguided” unwillingness to charge Trump as his reason for quitting. Bragg and his communications team have repeatedly pushed back on that narrative. The Times on Monday reported that the DA is now concentrating on the probe’s initial focus: a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election to silence her about a sexual encounter with Trump, a liaison he denies. Bragg is considering a new case against Weisselberg related to unrelated insurance fraud allegations to pressure him to share details of the hush-money payment, according to the report. Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and Fixer, served three years in federal custody for the payment, which he said was done at the candidate’s direction. Weisselberg received federal immunity for testing against Cohen in that case. In February, he tried to get the DA’s case against him thrown out because investigators had spent so much time talking to Cohen, who the CFO argued wielded a “vendetta” against him because of his cooperation. The Daily News could not confirm whether the DA is considering new charges against Weisselberg. His lawyer Nick Gravante declined to comment on the possibility of a new case. Daniels’ lawyer Clark Brewster said she had not heard from the Manhattan DA since the office told her to expect an interview request, which never came, more than a year ago. Cohen said he had not spoken to Bragg or anyone from his office. DA spokeswoman Danielle Filson declined to comment.