- Allen Weisselberg has been the Trump Organization’s longtime loyal CFO and family bookkeeper.
- The Manhattan DA is reportedly trying to “flip” him for its investigation into Trump’s finances.
- Weisselberg and his family’s close ties to the Trumps go into legal gray areas.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
During the past several years of criminal investigations, Congressional inquiries, and political battles over Donald Trump’s taxes and business dealings, the one man most intimately familiar with them has remained out of the spotlight.
The mustachioed, press-shy Allen Weisselberg has served as the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer for decades, as well as Trump’s personal bookkeeper. Now, he’s reportedly the subject of a wide-ranging inquiry from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors are looking into “flipping” Weisselberg into cooperating with an investigation into Trump’s finances, according to the Washington Post. Weisselberg, 73, has loyally served the Trump family since the 1970s and is the only person not a member of Trump’s family to oversee his trust while he was president. Prosecutors are reportedly zeroing in on Weisselberg’s two sons, both of whom also have close ties to the company.
Given his vast familiarity with the Trump family’s finances and their network of companies, Weisselberg could be the most important source for any investigation into Trump’s finances.
He’s also worked with prosecutors before.
Weisselberg knows more about the Trump Organization’s finances than anyone else
Weisselberg got his start with the Trump family in the 1970s as a bookkeeper for Fred Trump.
Over the years, he ascended the ranks of the Trump Organization to become its chief financial officer, and has held the keys to the family’s financial life, as well. (While other reports refer to him as an accountant, Weisselberg does not hold a CPA license, according to New York state records.)
“There’s a misconception about The Trump Organization that it’s this big, massive company with 10,000 employees,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and a vice president for the Trump Organization, said in Congressional testimony. “It’s not. I mean, the entire company was really run by 12 of us.”
Weisselberg’s name made headlines in 2018 and 2019 as federal prosecutors investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments ahead of the 2016 election to women who accused Trump of having affairs with them.
Cohen released a tape purporting to show Weisselberg discussing how to facilitate the payments and what they might mean for the Trump Organization. And while Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to federal crimes in connection with the scheme, The Wall Street Journal reported Weisselberg himself received immunity for cooperating with the investigators in the Southern District of New York who prosecuted Cohen, avoiding charges.
While the Manhattan District Attorney’s office likely has all the documents they need for their investigation, Jeff Robbins, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw money-laundering investigations, said that having someone like Weisselberg guide them through all the evidence could be enormously helpful.
“I’m sure the records have been turned over by the hundreds and thousands,” Robbins told Insider. “However, it sure makes it a lot easier if you have somebody who can walk the prosecutors through the documents and explain the sequence, and who would have had direct conversations with Trump.”
Unlike Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, two of Trump’s eldest children who play leading roles in his company, Weisselberg has made few forays into politics. New York state voter registration records reviewed by Insider show that he’s a registered Republican living in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (the building previously carried Trump branding that has since been removed), but he didn’t donate to any of his boss’ presidential campaigns.
But he did donate to two of Trump’s political rivals. FEC records published by the Center for Responsive Politics show that Weisselberg donated to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York’s 2010 campaign and to former Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s presidential campaign in 2008. Both donations predated Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump himself donated to Schumer’s campaigns in the 1990s.
Weisselberg also donated to former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a Democrat who led the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee, in 1994. The donation came a month before Rostenkowski was criminally indicted for his role in a corruption scandal that ultimately led to his resignation and a guilty plea on mail fraud charges.
Weisselberg and his wife have a home, a short drive away from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, in Boynton Beach, Florida. They’re currently involved in a lawsuit with their homeowner insurance company over damage following 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Mary Mulligan, an attorney representing Weisselberg at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP, declined to comment for this story.
His family’s financial ties with the Trump Organization go into legal gray areas
The Trumps have always seemed to have a porous wall between their personal finances and their businesses and foundations. In 2019, Trump paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit the New York Attorney General’s office brought, alleging he used resources from The Trump Foundation to boost his political fortunes.
These gray areas reportedly extend to Weisselberg and his family. And they also run into possible legal conundrums.
In November 2000, according to Bloomberg News, Trump gave a unit at Trump Parc East, a condominium building at 100 Central Park South, to Weisselberg and his wife, Hilary. Records reviewed by Insider show it had a sale price of $152,500, an eye-poppingly low price for prime Manhattan real estate.
The couple sold it to their son Jack Weisselberg in 2003 for $148,000, who sold it for $570,000 in 2006, Bloomberg News reported.
Jack Weisselberg works as a finance director at Ladder Capital, his LinkedIn page says. The firm is one of Trump’s primary real estate lenders, loaning him $280 million to finance four of his Manhattan properties, according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
Barry Weisselberg, another one of Allen Weisselberg’s sons, has even closer and more complicated financial ties with the Trumps. He’s an employee at the Trump Organization, having managed the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park, which until recently was run by the company through a contract with New York City.
He, too, received an apartment at the Trump Parc East building. According to Bloomberg News, Barry and his now-ex-wife Jennifer Weisselberg received it as a wedding gift in the mid-2000s from Trump and paid for only utilities, at around $400 per month. When the couple moved out, it was rented out for nearly $5,000 per month, and a Trump-owned entity sold it for $2.8 million in 2014, according to Bloomberg.
But while Barry and Jennifer Weisselberg both lived there, Barry listed it as a corporate apartment in his divorce proceedings, Bloomberg News reported. Their tax returns, though, according to Bloomberg News, didn’t always list the apartment as a corporate perk. The designation may mean that Barry Weisselberg and the Trump Organization itself may have not paid the correct amount of taxes on the apartment, Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby reported.
That apartment – and its tax ramifications – are a subject of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s investigation, according to the Washington Post.
“On the question of where Allen Weisselberg stands in the evidence pyramid, he stands right below Donald Trump himself,” Robbins, now an attorney at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told Insider. “So it does appear to be an exploration on the part of the DA’s office as to whether or not they can flip Allen Weisselberg by leveraging one of his two sons.”
The investigation into the Weisselbergs grew out of Vance’s investigation into the Trump Organization’s business dealings with other companies, including Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital. Jack Weisselberg is also a subject of the probe, though it’s unclear if he had any role in loans Ladder Capitol gave to the Trump organization, according to Bloomberg News.
The Trump Organization also gave Barry Weisselberg an Upper East Side townhouse while he was in the divorce process in 2018, according to Bloomberg News. It isn’t clear how Weisselberg and the Trump Organization treated it in tax filings.
While Allen Weisselberg seems to have been loyal to the Trump family for years, Robbin said the pressure on his family could flip him.
“The likelihood of him cooperating goes up significantly if, in fact, the prosecutors have criminal charges that can reasonably be brought against his sons,” Robbins said. “For the simple human reason that what father would not do something unpleasant in order to help his sons out of a legal jam?”
Apartments seem to be a common perk for Trump employees. Cohen also had an apartment in one of Trump’s buildings while working for the mogul, and former communications director Hope Hicks stayed in one “rent-free” during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Matthew Calamari, Trump’s loyal longtime head of security, also has a home in the Trump Parc East building, according to records reviewed by Insider.
Jake Weisselberg and representatives for Ladder Capital didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. Barry Weisselberg couldn’t be reached for comment. Jennifer Weisselberg didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
He’s cooperated with prosecutors in the past
Weisselberg’s name hasn’t been particularly important in the Manhattan DA’s court battles over Trump’s tax records. But he has played a role in different investigations from federal and state prosecutors.
The CFO testified for federal prosecutors in Manhattan who secured Cohen’s guilty plea. Weisselberg helped the Trump Organization reimburse Cohen the $130,000 hush-money payment he made to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who said she had sex with Donald Trump during Melania Trump’s pregnancy.
Weisselberg’s name didn’t appear in the charging documents against Cohen, and he was never charged for his participation in the scheme.
Cohen hasn’t forgiven Weisselberg. When the news broke that prosecutors were looking into Weisselberg’s family, he took to Twitter.
“Remember that Allen Weisselberg received (federal) immunity from the SDNY to provide information and testify against me for the @StormyDaniels payment. #KarmaBoomerang,” Cohen wrote.
In a separate investigation, for Trump’s now-defunct charity foundation, Weisselberg testified for prosecutors working for New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Weisselberg told prosecutors he had little knowledge of the Trump Foundation’s operations and testified he had no knowledge that he was on the Trump Foundation’s board of directors in a deposition transcript reviewed by Insider.
He did, however, testify that the foundation was used to boost Trump’s campaign in 2016. James’ office used the testimony in its lawsuit against the Trump Foundation where a judge forced Trump to pay a $2 million fine.
Weisselberg’s vast knowledge of Trump’s finances has made him a target in civil lawsuits, as well.
He was a defendant in a 2017 lawsuit from William Weinstein, a New York resident who sought to create a mechanism to ensure that Trump wouldn’t take foreign profits as president through the Trump Organization. It was dismissed in short order, with the judge ruling that Weinstein didn’t have the standing to sue. Trump has steadfastly refused to release financial records, and The New York Times reported that Trump has paid far more in foreign taxes over the past two decades than in US taxes.
He’s been less helpful in an ongoing investigation from the New York AG
Weisselberg also testified in a different, ongoing investigation into Trump’s finances from James’ office, sitting for a deposition under subpoena in July and August 2020.
In that case, he was less forthcoming.
A court filing from the New York Attorney General’s office suggests that Weisselberg was questioned about the tax categorization of forgiven loans to the Trump Organization, but wasn’t very helpful.
“When examined by [the office of the attorney general], however, Mr. Weisselberg testified that he had no first-hand knowledge of this fact, had not reviewed the relevant documents to confirm that any such understanding was true, could not identify any return on which the forgiveness was treated as income, and instead was relying solely upon his recollection of conversations he had years earlier with the Trump Organization’s accountants concerning the tax treatment of the amount of the debt that was forgiven,” the filing says.
The Trump Organization refused to furnish the relevant tax documents, attorneys for the AG office wrote in the filing.
Weisselberg was similarly unhelpful when asked about Seven Springs, a property in upstate New York that Trump has reportedly treated as a tax write-off for nature conservation even though family members have said it’s a personal residence.
The lack of information Weisselberg gave them in his testimony led the attorney general’s office to subpoena the Trump Organization for its tax documents, prosecutors wrote.
Since the Manhattan District Attorney’s office successfully won two Supreme Court battles to obtain Trump’s tax documents, experts say James’ office has a good chance of getting them on its own.
This article has been updated.